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Kinder, Gentler Artillery

By any historical standard, Americans at war are scrupulous to avoid inflicting collateral damage (which is why those brave Iranian mullahs dig their bunkers next to shrines and mosques).

Now even artillery fire is getting compassionate, which is amazing when you think about the physics involved:

Artillery hasn’t been all that helpful in the Iraq counterinsurgency. Even in trained hands, heavy, indirect fire is pretty indiscriminate. Bystanders often get killed, while intended targets slip away.

Which is why the Army has been bankrolling "Excalibur," a Raytheon effort to build a 155mm artillery shell that’s guided by GPS. Think of it as the howitzer’s answer to smart bombs.

Our enemies’ R&D efforts don’t produce quite the same shock or awe. The Mahdi army thinks precision guidance means giving a guy with dynamite in his pants a map.  Hezbollah, on the other hand, uses a spotter: The guy holding his ears yells at his uncle to point the Katyusha toward Israel, not their truck.  Hey, if you can hit Israel 30% of the time by shooting at it over a fence, who needs someone with a map?

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Mr. Moffat is a freelance writer in Bethesda, Md.

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