An Israeli defense firm on Thursday unveiled a portable robot billed as being capable of entering most combat zones alone and engaging enemies with an onboard armory that includes a machine-pistol and grenades.
The Viper, roughly the size of a small television, was invented as part of Israel's efforts to develop weaponry that could reduce the risks to its forces from hand-to-hand fighting against Palestinian or Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas.
The manufacturer, Elbit Systems, said that the Viper's small size and dual treads enable it to move "undeterred by stairs, rubble, dark alleys, caves or narrow tunnels."
As well as bomb-sniffing and bomb disposal equipment, the Viper can carry an Uzi machine-pistol or plant a grenade. The weapons would be aimed using an onboard video camera.
According to Elbit, which has close links with the Defense Ministry, Israel plans to deploy the Viper among its infantry units after field tests. The robot could also be of interest to foreign police units or U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Now, why would Israel spend millions of dollars developing such a robot?
Because for Israelis, lives have infinite value. And they are battling people who have demonstrated that their own lives are of infinitesimal value.
And - as usual - the major beneficiaries of Israeli technology will end up being the US and its allies, who share Western ideas about the value of human life.
Israel-bashers like to talk about Israel's huge defense system and how unequal the battlefield is. What they fail to mention is that a significant part of Israel's defense budget goes towards weapons that minimize the loss of human lives, both Israel's and its enemies'. Can you imagine Hamas or Hezbollah being interested in smart weapons when the same amount of money would buy hundreds of dumb bombs? Can anyone even fathom an Arab fighter who cares in the least about whether he kills soldiers or civilians?
In the end, the effectiveness of this hugely expensive robot is roughly similar to that of a Jihadist intent on reaching Paradise - and he costs nothing, in the Islamist calculus. To Israel's sworn enemies, the thought of developing such a robot would be absurd when they have a near-infinite supply of indoctrinated Islamic human munitions. They don't want to minimize human losses - they want to maximize them. And that is a much, much cheaper way to wage war.
Which shows again, in a nutshell, the difference between Israel and those who try to destroy her.