Operations Against Enemy Leaders

Operations Against Enemy Leaders

Stephen T. Hosmer
Copyright Date: 2001
Edition: 1
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 180
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  • Book Info
    Operations Against Enemy Leaders
    Book Description:

    Operations targeted against senior enemy leaders have long been viewed as a potential means of shaping the policy and behavior of enemy states. As a result, the United States has launched a variety of overt and covert operations in efforts to attack enemy leaders directly, facilitate their overthrow by coup or rebellion, or secure their ouster through external invasion. This book examines a number of leadership attacks from World War II to the present to offer insights into the comparative efficacy of various forms of leadership attacks, their potential coercive and deterrent value, and the possible unintended consequences of their ill-considered use. The book concludes that direct attacks, coups, and rebellions have met with only limited success and, even when successful, have sometimes yielded counterproductive results. Moreover, neither direct attacks nor coups have been of significant coercive or deterrent value, although rebellions have at times provided useful negotiating leverage. By contrast, external invasions have proved to be more efficacious both in shaping the targeted countries' policy and behavior and in exerting coercive effects. The book concludes by outlining the likely conditions under which future leadership attacks are likely to be sanctioned and by delineating the prerequisites of effective use of air power in such contexts.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-3234-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  4. TABLE
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xxii)
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
    (pp. xxv-xxvi)
  8. Chapter One INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-8)

    The United States has long attempted to use leadership attacks to shape the policy and behavior of enemy states and other hostile actors. Over the years, both overt and covert operations have been mounted in attempts to kill enemy leaders directly or to secure their overthrow either by indigenous coup or rebellion or by external invasion. Through such attacks, the United States has variously sought to (1) compel enemy states to abandon policies and behavior injurious to American interests, (2) deter adversaries from making future assaults on those interests, (3) depose potentially dangerous regimes, and (4) degrade enemy capabilities to...

    (pp. 9-48)

    Any decision to conduct a direct attack on an enemy leader is likely to be predicated on several key assumptions. In sanctioning such action, the decisionmaker will expect the attack to

    conform to existing moral, legal, and political constraints

    stand a reasonable chance of producing the physical, coercive, or deterrent effect desired

    produce no harmful, unintended consequences.

    The experiential data on direct leadership attacks accumulated to date suggest that the decisionmaker would be well advised to approach the last two of these assumptions with considerable skepticism. Indeed, experience shows that direct leadership attacks are usually unsuccessful and, even when successful...

    (pp. 49-114)

    The United States might also act to remove or intimidate hostile leaders by attempting to facilitate their overthrow by a coup or rebellion. In sanctioning military and other support to a coup or rebellion, U.S. decisionmakers might anticipate consequences such as the following:

    U.S. assistance would be sufficient to make an otherwise problematic coup or rebellion successful.

    The successor government installed after the overthrow would adopt policies and behavior more acceptable to the United States.

    Even if the hostile regime was not overthrown, the regime’s perception of the threats posed by continued coup plotting or by a U.S.-supported rebel force...

    (pp. 115-132)

    A final way to remove a hostile government is to overthrow it with external military force. The target country would be invaded and occupied, the old regime and its security structure would be purged, and a new government would be set in place. The ground force component of such an external invasion could be provided by troops from a neighboring country, U.S. ground forces, or a coalition of U.S. and allied forces. Whatever the makeup of the ground force contingents, U.S. air power could be called on to prepare the battlefield for the invasion and to provide support to engaged...

    (pp. 133-136)

    Because enemy leaders devote priority attention and large resources to the protection of their person and power, they have proved hard to kill and overthrow. Moreover, history shows that the demise of a targeted leader may not necessarily produce the change in enemy policy and behavior that the attacker desires. Even worse, an ill-considered leadership attack can produce unintended consequences that are seriously detrimental to the attacker’s interests.

    Over the past 50 years, the United States has had no success in removing enemy heads of state by direct attack and only very limited success in promoting the overthrow of hostile...

    (pp. 137-151)