Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press


ing a “failed state,” it can be persuaded to use its power to deny

the terrorists the sanctuaries they need to launch their attacks.

During the Palestinian Second Intifada (2000–2005), Israel attempted

a mixed-deterrence compellence counterterrorism strategy,

ultimately and reluctantly finding itself adding an important

component of defense. While initially its targeted killing of Palestinian

terrorists comprised an attempt at preemption—killing

terrorists and their “senders” before they succeeded to launch

an attack—Israel increasingly moved to the killing of commanders

and even their political leaders. This was partly an exercise

of pure offense—an attempt to weaken terrorist organizations by

depriving them of experienced commanders and by forcing their

remaining commanders to spend more of their energy on selfpreservation

rather than on planning, preparing, and perpetrating

attacks. But equally, it was an attempt at deterrence by directly

punishing the leadership of terrorist organizations in an

attempt to dissuade them from continuing to fight.

The compellence component of the strategy was directed at

the terrorists’ immediate environment. Thus, demolishing the

homes of terrorists’ families was at least partially aimed at persuading

family members of terrorists to prevent them from

launching attacks. Yet, these demolitions were also exercised

as a form of deterrence: It was hoped that terrorists willing to

sacrifice their own lives may yet refrain from actions that were

bound to cause their family members to lose their homes. The

strategy was later pronounced a failure: A study conducted by

the IDF found that home demolitions had no discernable effect

on the magnitude of the terrorist threat. With deterrence failing

and compellence registering very partial success, Israel ultimately

found itself compelled to supplement these measures

by old-fashioned defense: the construction of a security fence—

and in urban areas, a wall—aimed at preventing Palestinian

terrorists from reaching Israel’s metropolitan areas.

Confronting an Insurgency: The Case of 2006

Conceptually, insurgencies represent a middle-range case—

somewhere between the threat presented by a well-structured

state apparatus and the challenge presented by the elusive terrorist

threat. While lacking the classical structure of a conven-


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