Deterring Rational Fanatics

Deterring Rational Fanatics

Alex S. Wilner
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Deterring Rational Fanatics
    Book Description:

    Cold War-era strategic thinking was driven by the belief that individuals, organizations, and foreign states could be deterred from offensive action by the threat of reprisal. That assurance was shaken with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001; suddenly, it seemed that no threat was powerful enough to deter individuals or organizations that valued political objectives over their own lives and the lives of their members. More than a decade later, new research and theory are bringing deterrence back into currency as a viable counterterrorism strategy. Alex S. Wilner updates deterrence theory for conflict in the twenty-first century, arguing for its value against challengers such as rogue states, cyber warriors, and transnational terrorist organizations.

    Deterring Rational Fanaticsprovides a full-scale discussion of deterrence theory concepts and controversies, assessing the utility of relying on the logic of deterrence and coercion to counter contemporary terrorism. In particular, targeted killings directed against the Taliban of Afghanistan provide a vivid illustration of the impact deterrence can have on militant behavior: precision strikes that eliminate militant leaders represent a significant cost to planning and participating in political violence, a cost that can coerce, manipulate, and alter behavior. Though deterrence theory is not a panacea for terrorism, insurgency, or militancy, it can serve as a strategic guide for state responses; as Wilner shows, terrorist violence can indeed be deterred.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-9204-6
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. CHAPTER 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-15)

    For decades, deterrence theory was the veritable bedrock on which American, British, Soviet, Chinese, Indian, and Israeli foreign and military policies were based. During much of the Cold War, these and other states tailored their relations and interactions with foes and friends alike on the basis of coercion, compellence, and deterrence. Classical deterrence theory is a product of that period: The development and proliferation of nuclear weapons in particular necessitated that wars between great powers be avoided or contained. Academics did their part by exploring the intricacies behind the logic and theory of deterrence and by outlining the promises and...

  4. CHAPTER 2 Deterrence Theory: Exploring Core Concepts
    (pp. 16-36)

    The logic of deterrence is simple. It rests on convincing an adversary that the costs of taking a particular action outweigh the potential benefits the action is expected to provide. Deterrence is fundamentally about manipulating another’s behavior in a way that suits your needs, interests, or goals. Although classical deterrence theory is a product of the Cold War, deterrence is neither a novel nor a contemporary creation. Even the Romans understood that if you want peace, you need to be ready for war.¹ And though international relations theory has popularized deterrence in the study of international crisis and conflict, to...

  5. CHAPTER 3 Deterring Terrorism: Contemporary Debates
    (pp. 37-74)

    Today we are in the middle of a “fourth wave” of deterrence research.¹ Emerging at the end of the Cold War as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the focus of this wave is directed toward mapping the contours of deterrence theory against a backdrop of novel and often asymmetric threats. In recent years, the logic of deterrence has been expanded, its application widely broadened. Research on the subject has narrowed in on asymmetric opponents, nuclear proliferants, and “rogue” states, suggesting ways in which the tenets of Cold War deterrence might be reshaped and reapplied to address...

  6. CHAPTER 4 Targeted Killings: Theory, Practice, And Consequence
    (pp. 75-122)

    Targeted killings offer one way to empirically examine the theory and practice of deterring contemporary terrorists. Targeted killings are the “intentional slaying” of individual terrorist leaders and facilitators “undertaken with explicit governmental approval.”¹ In the years since 9/11, they have become a cornerstone of U.S. counterterrorism policy and strategy. Conceptually, targeted killings represent a cost to planning and participating in terrorism. Accordingly, they offer a practical case study for assessing whether and how deterrence (by punishment) might be applied to counterterrorism. The coercive effect of a sustained campaign of targeted killings on a terrorist group’s behavior can be delineated; it...

  7. CHAPTER 5 Targeting the Taliban: Coercive Lessons from Afghanistan
    (pp. 123-171)

    On March 5, 2007, Daniele Mastrogiacomo, an Italian journalist, along with his Afghan driver and an Afghan journalist, Ajmal Naqshbandi, were abducted by Taliban forces while reporting from southern Afghanistan. The kidnapping was conducted by forces associated with Mullah Dadullah Akhund, the most high-ranking and prominent Taliban leader in Afghanistan. Besides being a top-ranked member of the Taliban’sshura(or leadership) council, Dadullah was also one of three military strategists dispatched by the Taliban’s supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, to organize the Taliban’s insurgent activities. Mastrogiacomo’s kidnapping made headlines. After promptly executing the Afghan driver, the Taliban broadcast a plea...

  8. CHAPTER 6 Moving Ahead with Deterrence Theory
    (pp. 172-188)

    Developing and testing theories of deterring terrorism is a promising academic endeavor with very real practical applications. For decades, deterrence theory informed foreign and military policies around the world. Its tenets offered political and military leaders a guide for how to fight current conflicts within limits, while planning ahead to avoid the next war altogether. That changed with the fall of the Iron Curtain; deterrence soon became a theory in search of meaningful occupation. In the post–Cold War era, a few scholars applied deterrence to novel contemporary threats, like rogue states and WMD proliferaters, domestic and civil wars, and...

  9. APPENDIX: Research Design and Methodology
    (pp. 189-200)
  10. NOTES
    (pp. 201-244)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 245-256)