Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press


sources as the Internet, where it is very easy to encounter the

proterrorism message.

The lesson here would seem to be clear: whilst Western agencies

cannot themselves hope to generate effective juridical prohibitions

of terrorism, they can try to facilitate the activities of

others, not the least by helping to resource them adequately. In

this regard, the emphasis placed by the British government’s

new counterterrorism strategy on antiradicalization measures

is to be welcomed. 9

However it is attempted, the reinforcement of normative barriers

against terrorism cannot be achieved overnight: it is something

that will take time to come to fruition. My second example

of deterrence in action is, however, one that can be achieved

rather more quickly, as it is bound up with efforts to defend

ourselves against attack. The fact of the matter is that the value

of defensive measures derives not simply from their capacity

for physically preventing attacks that would otherwise take

place. Defensive measures also shape terrorists’ perceptions of

the likelihood of their operations being successful, along with

the costs they will need to incur to maximize their chances of

success. They impose, in other words, cost-benefit calculations

whose results might well be a deterrent to action.

At this point, it might be objected that cost considerations

are irrelevant to individuals who are willing to sacrifice their

own lives to operational success and that the matter is all one

of benefits so far as they are concerned; thus, deterrence cannot

operate here. But the matter is more complicated than this.

For the fact that such individuals are willing to sacrifice their

very lives indicates that they do attach a great deal of importance

to something, which is the contribution that a successful

mission will make to the ultimate cause they espouse. And it is

precisely this success that defences hold at risk. Defences

threaten terrorists with the prospect not simply of failure but of

costly failure. They threaten dead or captured personnel, the

spending of money, and the commitment of precious resources—

all to no good purpose. The prospect of a well-publicized failure

may also deter terrorists who are concerned to preserve their

standing in the eyes of their supporters. Failure risks detracting

from the message that Western states are vulnerable to daring

and determined attack; it risks entrenching a view that violent


More magazines by this user
Similar magazines