Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press


al Zawahiri, in almost every video message, cites the example

of Madrid as the one that needs to be emulated, an operation

that in his view had a clear and tangible result. People in this

country who were involved in the Crevice plot described it as

the perfect operation, one that needed to be imitated; and so

did Dhirien Barot, another British terrorist, who also spoke of

the Madrid attacks as, in his words, another beautiful operation

that needed to be copied in other parts of the world.

So whatever we believe really happened, the narrative or, to

use Lawrence Freedman’s expression, the script within the Jihadist

movement is that Madrid proves that this kind of operation

works, that you can coerce Western governments through

terrorist actions. It may be a mess, and it may be similar to the

idea that foreign fighters expelled the Soviets from Afghanistan

and brought down the Soviet Union. It may be similarly mythical

to the idea that the Jihadists expelled the Americans from

Somalia. These arguments, though strongly believed, are far

from true when you investigate the facts. But they are strongly

believed, and that is perhaps why they matter. Indeed, I want

to conclude therefore by arguing that no amount of explaining

by myself and others at RUSI conferences will change that perception.

The Jihadist narrative has stuck, and whatever we believe,

whether it is true or not, clearly with Madrid—not only

with Madrid but certainly with Madrid—the idea that you can

coerce Western governments through this kind of action has

become a reality.


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