In my book The Religion War, written ten years ago, I predicted a future in which terrorists could destroy anything above ground whenever they wanted. They simply used inexpensive drones with electronics no more sophisticated than an Android app.

Fast-forward to today, Iran is sending drones to Hezbollah, and Hezbollah has training camps right next to Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles. Meanwhile, Hamas has its own drone production facility, or did, until Israel found it. One presumes Hamas will build more. How long will it be before Israel is facing suicide drones that only cost its enemies $100 apiece, fit in the trunk of a car, and can guide themselves to within 20 feet of any target? I'd say five years.

So what happens when the drone attacks start happening in volume? Let's game this out. My assumption is that the coming inevitable wave of hobby-sized suicide drones will be unstoppable because they will fly low to their target and be so numerous that no defense will be effective. I predict it will be too dangerous to live above ground in Israel within ten years unless the trend is reversed. But what could stop the trend?

Surely the terrorists won't give up. Surely Iran and others will keep the terrorists well-supplied. Surely Israel can't conquer every pocket of terrorism in the region. And surely Israel won't surrender and walk away.

It's your turn to be a futurist. Please describe in the comments any scenario you can imagine in which Israeli cities are still habitable in ten years. And be sure to give your best guess on the odds of your scenario playing out.

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Nov 16, 2012
Assuming the rest of the world stands on the sideline. Cities near bordering countries, not sympathetic to Israel will have a very high risk of being peppered with drones. It is hard to imagine major shipping routes being destabilized for the same reason Dubai is able to exist without violence - bribery, so port cities may be mostly livable. Drones are probably wasted on small interior cities. A big question is: how livable will Palestine be in 10 years?
Nov 16, 2012
I have a scenaro to add to swps. The Macchiavelli gangster approach. Mossad increases to legendary proportions. Arabs are free to settle in Isreal and own property - but walk a very fine line. Being labeled as an "Enemy of Isreal' will get you a warning. Failure to take that warning will get yourself, and all your relatives, and all THEIR relatives, murdered in their sleep by masked assasins or RC drones.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 16, 2012
Explosive filled drones are not a real threat because the iron dome system will improve over time.

But if hamas fills those drones with chemical or biological weapons, I think that Israels response to rumors about this would be to threaten nuclear retaliation on the Gaza strip. And I couldn't fault them for it.
Nov 16, 2012
Just as an addendum to my comment. Whenever the maker of the retreieved weapon is traceable - levy a fine against the owners of the factory and tell them to be more careful on who the sell to next time.
Nov 16, 2012
Of course everyone will live underground. I know that from reading your previous stuff.
Nov 16, 2012
I suppose it would be a matter of controlling the technology. A smart person can create home-made explosives from legally obtainable materials, but not many and not often. The IEDs that are most commonly used by terrorists are converted from already-made ordinance that was either stolen or otherwise obtained illegaly.

However the instability and constant warfare that has plagued the region since time immemorial means that stockpiles existing weapons are pretty easy to find, and eradicating those stockpiles nearly impossible.

But only nearly. I think what would make a real dent in this would be to implement a 'guns for food' seige strategy by the U.N. this would not be trading actual foodstuffs for weapons - which would be logistically impractical - just money in exchange for guns.

The idea would be to calculate the caloric value of all weapons, and trade it for the money of an equal caloric quantity of food. Most likely you will be paying higher than black-market prices for weapons at the start - which would mean outbidding terrorist and warlords for the weapons they need.

This would create a sort of market-bubble for weapons - which would lead to factions not willing to take the bribe to kill each other off for the needed weapons. The infighting would also tend to turn public sentiment against the hardliners - making it easier for authorities to target and eliminate them.

It would be expensive - but it would ultimately be less costly that the constant threat of IEDs.
Nov 16, 2012

...So the solution to Arab terrorists is to let Arabs into your borders. Sorry. Not seeing this as a good solution. You're exchanging the problem of bomber drones for old-fashioned terror bombers.
Nov 16, 2012

One thing that amazed me about our last couple of wars is how much infrastructure remained in the target cities after "shock and awe" bombing with laser guided precision weapons and excellent intelligence that allowed us to specifically target infrastructure and command and control centers. I remember reading about lots of rolling black-outs and being surprised there was any power left to be blacked out.

Your doomsday scenario is not possible within a 10 year period. 100 years? Sure, the scenario is possible. Assuming Israel does not find an effective way to defend itself, which is a pretty improbable assumption in itself. But still, 100 years is not impossible. 10 years? Nope.
Nov 16, 2012
Short-term, Israel needs to surrender their border regions and allow Palestinians to settle amongst them, and not to be treated as second-class citizens. That would make human shields out of the Palestinians. Of course the Palestinians would eventually want more and more, but the whole surrender thing would be a subterfuge calculated to buy time.

Meanwhile, a pair of biotech Manhattan projects would try to 1) develop race-based bioweapons that specifically target Palestinians and 2) develop bacteria that can make oil cheaper than the Saudis can pump it, thereby making the middle east irrelevant (except for religious tourism).

Bibliography: theatlantic.com "Hacking the President'sDNA"

Nov 16, 2012
A hobby sized drone can be used to kill a person, but can't do much against a car or building. That means that Hezbollah, etc, need to decide if they want to kill high value targets or just anyone they catch outside. If it is the latter, then Israel will need to destroy the stockpiles and factories if possible. Iran is having a lot of problems right now, they may not want to provide Hezbollah with massive numbers of drones and risk continued sanctions; that means that the factories would be closer in Gaza, Syria or Lebanon. Israel may need to periodically attack the source of the drones. This is not that different from the current situation where Israel periodically attacks due to missile strikes.

[It's different in the sense that missile attacks are totally inaccurate. Drones with GPS could drop chemical weapons on any outdoor gathering. And if they use small incendiary devices, they can burn cities. -- Scott]
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 16, 2012
Of course China will make suicide drones for everybody, sell to both sides and pretend they are not involved.
They will also produce anti-drones that hunt the suicide drones. They will deny that too.
Then they will produce a XBOX 360 game that simulates both types of drones, which will actually control the real ones. They will deny that too... or maybe produce reality show out of that.
There are also opportunities for a lottery...
Nov 16, 2012
If terrorists start getting their hands on $100 drones such as the ones you describe Israel will have no option but to destroy the factories, in whichever country they may be. No western country will supply the terrorists, so it will be an Islamic country or maybe North Korea.

This will mean war. If the opposing country is a nuclear power, it may mean a nuclear war. As things stand today, I doubt any Islamic country will risk supplying such drones to the terrorists. Iran may take the risk if it becomes a nuclear power, but the sanctions seem to be working for now.

Unless China starts supplying the terrorists, which is unlikely, I think Israel will take care of itself.

It is also unlikely that such attacks will be limited to Israel. The terrorists will target any and all countries, giving Israel many allies in the war against terror.

In any case, ten years seems too short a time for anything like the scenario you describe to happen. I do not see things changing much in the next ten years. And I certainly do not see the terrorists getting tired of killing or being killed.

[I don't think factories will be involved, unless you consider garage-sized operations factories. The small, specialized electronics would be common to cell phones, and you can't bomb Samsung. Manufacturers could be spread around the world with the assembling done in the Middle East in garages. -- Scott]

+7 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 16, 2012
I think swp is more or less correct. If this drone scenario comes to pass, I would think Israel is more likely to go on an all-out war against anyone suspected of taking part rather than abandoning their cities, even if that means nuclear attacks. It's not like anyone is going to nuke Israel in retaliation, after all.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 16, 2012
Yeah, I second Daniel Suarez' book "Kill Decision." (http://amzn.to/SXrUem) I just finished it. Great read, along with his first two Daemon (http://amzn.to/Rz1boh) and Freedom(TM) (http://amzn.to/NsaOB2). All three have technology that pretty much already exists and could be used the way described in his books. And these issues really need serious debate before they become real.
+9 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 16, 2012
Option 1: All out nuclear war. Wipe out the main civilian population centers, and the means of procuring the raw materials to build anything. Turn Iran, Syria, and anyone else who wants to join them into radioactive soot for the next million years. Israel survives, world oil prices skyrocket, and the world gets another lesson to never forget. No terrorists left within 300 miles of Israeli borders. No one else would dare an incursion for fear of the same retaliation.

Option 2: Limited nuclear war. Take out the capitals to decapitate the government, take out the known military bases to remove their ability to make war, take out the suspected bases, take out the suspected ammo/weapon caches. Israel survives, world oil prices skyrocket, and the world gets another lesson to never forget. Terrorists continue their small scale work.

Option 3: Surgical Strike against leaders of terrorist organizations, including the leaders of Syria and Iran, as well as any known Hammas leaders. Probably a lot of collateral damage as the buildings they are occupying are turned into 500 foot deep craters. Israel survives, world oil prices continue to be influenced more by speculators than middle eastern unrest. Terrorists increase their attacks against civilians, which eventually leads to one of the previous options.

Option 4: Iran/Syria launches a pre-emptive strike against Israel, killing 90% of the population and scattering the rest to the winds. Israel is no longer a nation. Palestine becomes a new nation. Terrorism ceases in the short term, but increases in the long term as the surviving Israeli nationals seek revenge. World oil prices skyrocket. The UN issues a resolution condemning the action, but since there is no Israel left to defend they do nothing.

Option 5: Conventional war. Israel measures there wars in days, and reminds everyone why. World oil prices skyrocket. The UN issues a resolution calling for a peaceful end to the conflict. Hundreds of thousands die, millions are wounded, millions of more are displaced. The region dissolves into chaos as the neighboring nations choose sides, and the US, Russia, China and others get involved. Israel survives. World oil prices skyrocket, as the meas of production are destroyed by the Israeli army and air force to get rid of the economy of their enemies. The US becomes the leading producer of oil, eeking out Russia after a few years.

Option 6: Nothing changes, we continue to have the same level of terrorism, occasional shots are fired back and forth, and everyone stays nervous. One whack-job after another assumes control of the various nations and organizations.

Odds of one of these things happening in the next 5 years: 100%.
Nov 16, 2012

How long do you think a well placed nuke is going to keep enemy drones inactive? My answer is 'not long enough to be worth it'.
Nov 16, 2012
Scott, you ever play Magic the Gathering? If so, usually the best option against a ton of small cheap creatures (MTG's drone equivalent) is called a board sweeper because it sweeps everything off of the board that's usually named something like Ragnarok, world's fire, Apocalypse, or something along those lines.

For those who can't see where I'm going with this: it's time to whip out the nukes. Small ones would be fine. You just need the EMP effect at least. At most, the countries around Isreal save for egypt aren't that big, so a small one would do just fine if Isreal decides to go biblical on their foes. A few well placed hits to iran would limit their short term future impact on the region.

Probability of success: depends, not really any real life data to back it up. It's doubtful Barack "I've got a muslim middle name" Obama would back them up which would probably force extra aggression on their part.

Option B would be a hoard of small cheap defensive drones. Fight fire with fire.

Probability of success: good as long as your drones can get the job done.

Option C would be to hope you can keep finding and taking out drone factories.

Probability of success: low. Drone factories can be relocated and hid, and it takes time to find them, esp if they can be put together in someone's garage.

Option D: with a little creativity, and a lot of energy, you could make an EMP-like shield around Isreal that fries any electronics that pass through it. The down side is getting flights into and out of isreal become a little more difficult when Alec Baldwin playing Angry Birds is a threat to a modern billion dollar aircraft.

Probability of success: not feasible at this time, maybe in 50 years.
Nov 16, 2012
While we know there are plenty of terrorists with murderous intent, I don't think all Palestinians are terrorists with murderous intent. It may be easy to imagine R/C airplanes with a GPS and explosives as relatively cheap and easy to obtain, and that's a cause for concern, but it's harder for me to imagine that their usage would be so desirable and widespread that it would basically make Israel uninhabitable.

Also, who knows where tech will be in 10 years? We sell our defense technology to Israel, and we may be able to blow those things out of the sky. (With apologies to the errant birds who are inadvertently targetted).
Nov 16, 2012
EM firebreaks around the border
Nov 16, 2012
I see one of two scenarios playing out

1. Israel continues to be able to identify and kill the chief troublemakers in Gaza, and we continue with the status quo, which means ongoing spurts of bombing over the next ten years. (75%)

2. Full scale escalation and over 1 million dead on both sides before they finally tire of it and sign a peace accord. However, there continue to be pockets of dissidents, primarily on the Palestinian side, that continue small-scale terrorism more in line with the Irish resistance of the 70s. (25%)

[If you control Gaza, you still have Hezbollah, Iran, Al Qaeda cranking out suicide drones. The Irish didn't have chemical weapons and drone crop dusters. -- Scott]
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