By Ronen Shnidman/JNS.org
Click photo to download. Caption: On May 31, 2001, the IDF’s Combat Engineering Corps conducts training in the southern part of Israel, in order to strengthen the security grip on one of the country’s largest land borders. Several experts at the 2013 Israeli Presidential Conference agreed that even as technology grows by leaps and bounds and cyber warfare becomes a more realistic possibility, the wars of the future will still be decided by infantry. Credit: Israel Defense Forces.
JERUSALEM—As technology grows by leaps and bounds, leading thinkers gathered last week at the 2013 Israeli Presidential Conference to discuss the future of warfare. Israel’s cyber weapons will eventually replace the pre-emptive strike role the Israel Air Force famously played in the 1967 Six Day War, according to Israel Defense Forces Brig. Gen. (res.) Yair Cohen, former commander of Israel’s much-vaunted signal intelligence corps Unit 8200.
Cohen predicted that in the future, Israel would be able to neutralize enemy weapons systems and units with “a single keystroke.” Unit 8200, besides serving as the Israeli equivalent to the America’s National Security Agency (NSA), is also considered one of the breeding grounds for the talent behind Israel’s “start-up nation” society of innovators and entrepreneurs, which most recently made headlines with Google’s $1.3 billion acquisition of the Israeli navigation start-up Waze.
“[Israel has] the potential to be the [world’s] number one, number two or number three cyber superpower,” Cohen said during the June 19 Presidential Conference panel titled “Tomorrow’s Wars—No Longer Science Fiction.”
Besides for Cohen, Israeli panelists included IDF Brig. Gen. (res.) Daniel Gold, who won the 2012 Israel Defense Prize for his role in developing the Iron Dome battery to defend Israel against short-range missiles and rockets, and Dr. Ariel Levite, a nonresident senior associate in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment. The panel also featured two Americans, Prof. Edward Luttwak, a senior associate of the Center for Strategic and International Studies of Washington, DC, and Prof. Michael Walzer, co-editor of the magazine Dissent and contributing editor to The New Republic as well as Professor Emeritus of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University.
Despite Cohen and Gold’s presentations of the IDF’s advanced technological capabilities, American panelists Luttwak and Walzer agreed that wars—even in the future—will still be decided by infantry. Luttwak stated that based on Israel’s experience fighting Hezbollah in the Second Lebanon War of 2006 and America’s experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, the actual trend for wars these days is to begin with the deployment of high-tech weapons like drones, then revert to medium-tech weapons such as armor, and eventually employ light infantry to achieve war goals. Luttwak also expressed reservations about over-spending and the political implications of over-reliance on new technology in the U.S., with particular reference to the NSA’s recently revealed PRISM surveillance program.
“The U.S. must decided whether to preserve individual liberties or kill three Mahmouds,” Luttwak said. “This, I would do with a gun,” he added.