Of Iron Domes and European Shields

She looked over his shoulder
For vines and olive trees,
Marble well-governed cities
And ships upon untamed seas,
But there on the shining metal
His hands had put instead
An artificial wilderness
And a sky like lead.

W.H.Auden's lines on the Shield of Achilles seem appropriate this morning, when three stories about missile defence came under my eye. The best peace is the peace of the strong, of course, and one way of securing strength is to have a collective shield. Treaty-based shields of mutual protection, outside of NATO, have not really proven that much use in the past century, and the peace of Empires isn't conscionable, as well as being inherently unstable. Trade undermines war, and diplomacy forestalls it, usually, but it is the normal way of men to kill each other for resources or ideas. That's not to be cynical, just realistic. It's Sunday, and I believe that the light of Christ can bring true peace, but I know enough of people to get the point that, well, that coin is not universal tender.

A ragged urchin, aimless and alone,
Loitered about that vacancy; a bird
Flew up to safety from his well-aimed stone:
That girls are raped, that two boys knife a third,
Were axioms to him, who'd never heard
Of any world where promises were kept,
Or one could weep because another wept.

So it's interesting to me to see that, within the past few months, several plans for missile defence predicated upon defensive technologies have advanced. Specifically, the German 'skyshield' device, the Israeli 'Iron Dome' project, and the NATO-led missile shield project that may move forward in November.

Skyshield is essentially a system to protect 'high value' bases and installations, cheaply. It is produced by Rheinmetall of Germany, and can be deployed by truck. The interesting thing to me is that the system--which is more anti-drone than anti-missile--is much more sophisticated than the Patriot missiles deployed to great but somewhat vain acclaim in the Gulf War of 1991.

What's also interesting is that Rheinmetall is the new name for Oerlikon defence systems; and Oerlikon developed the skyshield with Lockheed-Martin, to sell to Israel, where it has successfully been tested on Kassam Rockets.

There's globalisation for you. Iranians move money to Hamas to hide behind children whilst attempting to murder others in Sderot, Their primitive technology is packed with explosives acquired in Slovakia, Serbia, and 'elsewhere in the Balkans' (any guesses?).

This happens when a system designed and built by Israeli, American and German engineers to deal with earlier attacks is being deployed. The availability of this new system has now caused NATO to advance a decision long in the making about whether to adopt a cheap missile shield, employing the same technology and other items, in a way that would link Russia, NATO and Turkey against Hamas' paymasters in Teheran.

And so we come full circle. The people who have temporary control of Persia, who lash and stone and suppress and steal elections whilst proclaiming their strange variation of twelver Shia (strange because of the role of the Ayatollah Khomenei in it, as much as anything else) may now be faced with precisely the iron wall we need to shut down attack. All of this, because they funded Hamas in an attempt to curry favour with Arabs who suspect that Persians are not to be trusted-oh, and to kill Jews.

NATO will discuss the development of a new system in November, just as Austerity begins to bite. In truth, a serious programme of command and control integration has been going on since at least 2005, whatever you may have read in the mainstream press about the Bush administration's 'Star Wars' deployment in Poland.

On the day that the Obama administration acknowledged cancellation of that plan, a new narrative emerged from Brussels. One really has to ask if the Europeans and the Atlantic defence establishment rolled the Obama administration, or if the administration (in the form of Mrs Clinton and Mr Gates) rolled the media. The guessing game, whilst cynical, would make an interesting diversion.

The new plan is that the system will reach out to Russia, and that it will be directed against Teheran. The corollary of this must be that serious people now understand that an airstrike on Iran will almost certainly not work, and that a Persian war is not possible.

Another unexpected connection. Missile plans are hardy lifeforms, aren't they? I mean, look at the sequence; Obama cancels missile plan, missile plan evolves, giant missile plan emerges. How long before the skyshield systems meet the Korean robot guards?

The mainstream press are skimming the surface of all of this as usual. Contingency--its a wonderful thing.....