Saturday, 24 January 2009

On the Road Again

On Thursday and Friday I was back on the road again for the first time this year. There's a little school about 600km west where some staff training was necessary to prepare for the enrolment of a pre-schooler with disabilities, so I set off at first light so that there would be sufficient time to do some planning and orientation during the Thursday and Friday pupil-free days. The early departure meant a view of the sunrise – quite spectacular -

The Warrego at this hour was fairly quiet, giving me time to do a bit of rubbernecking. Near Yuleba is an amazing conglomeration of dongas – probably a depot where they're dispatched from in preparation for the expansion of the coal seam exploitation around Miles/Wandoan/Taroom . A few weeks ago there was nothing – now there are literally hundreds of dongas.

These things are always being trucked around – often creating bottlenecks in traffic – but I guess they provide reasonable air-conditioned accommodation in the summer heat out here. The miners have to sleep. I couldn't help wondering about the future of these new projects given the financial crisis.

I was in Roma by 9am, and was greeted by the sight of a Eureka flag – which made my day. I've always preferred it to the flag we use which has another countries' ensign in the top left corner.

I arrived at the school early afternoon, and was able to meet staff and collect the information needed to do the job first up on Friday.

Next morning, as I was loading my vehicle, the bloke in the motel unit next door was doing the same. He had a jacket with medals (including the Infantry Combat Badge) hanging in his car. I enquired "What unit?" He was ex 6RAR, and had served in both Timor and Iraq. He was attending his dad's funeral later in the day. "My dad never saw my medals" he said – "So I thought I'd better wear them today".
Amen to that.

The weather began to close in on the way back, with spectacular displays of stormscapes pretty much all the way back to Toowoomba.

By the time I got home, we were getting some good rain.

It's great to be back in harness. There's some fantastic teachers and parents out there, and some wonderful kids. It looks like it's going to be a busy year.

Blogging may become a bit sporadic though - I've never really made a success of doing it on the run.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Spinning Rockets

The ceasefire announced yesterday in Gaza has got to be good news for Israelis and Gazans alike. Let's see how long it lasts.

Will more Qassams landing in Sderot mean an end to the ceasefire and a resumption of Israeli action?

Given that the stated reason for the Israeli incursion is the continued risk to Israeli national security through the shooting of these rockets from Gaza, it seems logical that every effort should be made to prevent further rockets landing. It's not as if there's any likelihood that the mindset of the people firing them will change. I'd argue that every Palestinian killed by Israeli military action is replaced by five more as a result of that same action. This doesn't indicate support for Hamas - it's simple statement of political reality.

Logically then, I'd argue that the Israelis should be devoting a great deal of time and energy to the development of weapon systems which would destroy the Qassams (and whatever else is being lobbed across the border) before they could do any damage. This would expand the political options available to the Israelis exponentially.

Indeed, the citizens of Sderot feel so strongly about this that they have resorted to legal action.

Part of this is directed towards demanding that the IDF take the necessary measures to ensure defence of the town. It's interesting that these Israelis have so little confidence in their government that they believe that this is necessary.

There are weapons systems designed for this type of short range defense. One of the most respected is the Phalanx system which has been used with 80% effectiveness to defend the Green Zone in Baghdad.

There is a new system, Iron Dome, currently under development. Ron Ben-Yishai comments on the Israeli government decision to pursue development in September 2007 -

The decision made on Thursday is a strategic milestone. If Israel succeeds in finding a solution for the short-rang rockets launched, even if it is only a partial solution, it will bring about a shift in the balance of power between Israel and the terrorists and radical Islam operating against it.

Not only will the population be better protected from Katyushas and bigger Syrian rockets in the North and Qassams in the Negev, but Israel will regain the political freedom that it lost due to the rocket threat.

Another report indicates that Iron Dome was successfully tested in July 2007.

Not a lot of this makes sense to me. We know that there are systems that have been used successfully elsewhere such as Phalanx. We know that the Israelis have been looking at developing Iron Dome since 2007. We know some Israelis hold a fairly dim view of existing IDF measures to maintain their security.

Because of the historical lack of success of military incursion (the rockets continue since the most recent action, although at about one third of their maximum rate), it's time the folllowing questions were posed -

Why aren't more resources being deployed to develop effective defence against rockets?
Why aren't already available systems being deployed with greater energy?

Hopefully the answer doesn't have anything to do with forthcoming Israeli elections and the need to have positive political spin available on the issue of defence.

Update: The rockets continue - despite the ceasefire, and Hamas' giving the Israelis a week to withdraw..

Hugh White - Without America

Hugh White is always provocative, and doesn't pull any punches when it comes to criticising current defence policy. In 1995, he was appo...