Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

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Deterrence in the twenty-first century - Air University Press

Chapter 23

Quick Look

Deterrence in the Twenty-first Century

State versus Nonstate Actors

Jeffrey B. Hukill

Issue/Question

Since the end of the Cold War, the impact of nonstate actors

(NSAs) at regional and global scales has grown. This has been

especially evident since the start of the twenty-first century

with the 9/11 attacks and the Madrid and London train bombing.

These events along with others have caused many nationstates

to examine their traditional security measures to discover

methods applicable to NSAs for preserving security. With

this growth in NSA influence on nation-states, one of the most

relevant questions pertaining to deterrence theory is “can nation-states

deter NSAs.” The Royal United Service Institute

(RUSI), King’s College London; and the Air Force Research Institute

cosponsored a conference on 18–19 May 2009 to explore

this question and other issues related to deterrence.

Background/Discussion

Keynote speaker Dr. John Stone, senior lecturer at King’s

College’s Department of War Studies, stated that NSAs can be

deterred. By way of illustration, he focused on ways that nation-states

can deter al-Qaeda (AQ). His major theme was that

punitive deterrence is ineffective against AQ but that other

forms of deterrence hold substantially greater potential. He

suggested that nation-states should focus, for example, on the

vulnerabilities inherent in the illegitimacy of AQ’s religious

message used during recruiting. AQ is dependent upon a steady

flow of new recruits; so, deterring new recruits has substantial

consequences for the organization. It is, by effect, an attack on

AQ from within. In concert with information strategies aimed at

deterring potential recruits from joining the network, Dr. Stone

advocated effective defensive measures that would force potential

terrorists into unfavorable cost-benefit decisions.

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