Annals of Asymmetry: More to Fight IED's than AIDS

Over the coming year, according to the New York Times", the Pentagon will spend $4 billion dollars to defend against IED’s,–Improvised explosive devices—remote controlled makeshift bombs which are responsible for mounting U.S. casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. Compare that with $3.6 billion, the annual amount being spent by the Bush administration to combat AIDS worldwide.

$3.6 billion is not a paltry sum; indeed it exceeds the amount committed to combat AIDS by any other nation. But while the fight against AIDS seems to be making progress, those working in the Pentagon’s Joint I.E.D. Defeat organization are far less sanguine.

It’s all about asymmetry.

Despite the billions being spent to defend against the IED’s, the primitive devices have killed 80% of the Americans who died in combat over the past three months—that’s up from 50% in January. Naturally, as Bush has ordered thousands more Americans out onto the streets, the more targets for IED’s are presented.

The Pentagon is developing all kinds of new technology to detect IED’s and armor to defend against them, but the major stumbling block, the Pentagon admits, is human not technical: the fact that there are thousands of unemployed angry men around Iraq and Afghanistan ready to plant the devices, and a large percentage of folks who sympathize with them.

In fact, bitter American soldiers now say that the very Iraqi army and police units they are supposed to be working with are also, at times, turning their backs, allowing insurgents to plant the devices. In some cases, it turns out, members of the Iraqi army themselves are planting the IED’s.

Meanwhile, Israelis are confronting the same asymmetry in Gaza , as young Palestininians continue to fire makeshift Qassam rockets towards Israeli settlers a few kilometers away.

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