Deterrence Beyond the State

Rid, T (2012) “Deterrence Beyond the State. The Israeli Experience” Contemporary Security Policy, April, vol 33,
iss 1,  p. 124-147, DOI:10.1080/13523260.2012.659593

Israel’s experience with deterrence is unique: it is older, more diverse, and more experimental than that of any other state. How did Israel’s strategy of deterrence evolve? How was it adapted to fit the non-state threat? And what is its utility? This article argues that Israel’s experience with deterrence beyond the state can best be understood through the conceptual lenses provided by the other grand deterrence debate, that in the philosophy of law, not international relations. Israel’s use of military force against non-state enemies doesn’t fit the classic concepts of strategy: it is not just one act of force to compel one actor to fulfill one specific political goal at one given time; deterrence consists of a series of acts of force to create — and maintain — general norms of behavior for many political actors over an extended period of time. Using force, consequently, doesn’t represent a principal failure of deterrence but its maintenance through swift, certain, but measured responses. The inquiry concludes by identifying the method’s limitations.

Deterrence is as old as fear. Punishing offenders is a common theme in the Bible. Threatening potential aggressors with costly consequences has been a subject of political philosophy for centuries, especially in the theory of law. Yet in the history of strategy and international relations, deterrence received remarkably little attention before the mid 20th century. None of the masters of strategy of the 19th century has left much worthy of note about the age-old practice of administering threats by military means. Only in the Cold War were deterrence and retaliation explored in theory and elevated to policy. ‘The twentieth century is not the first century in which “retaliation” has been part of our strategy’, observed Thomas Schelling in the 1960s, ‘but it is the first in which we have systematically recognized it.’ […]

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Deterrence — The Israeli Experience” (27min) War Studies Podcast, 18 March 2012


Cracks in the Jihad

Rid, T. (2010) "Cracks in the Jihad" The Wilson Quarterly 34/1 Winter, p. 40-48

“Get ready for all Muslims to join the holy war against you,” the jihadi leader Abd el-Kader warned his Western enemies. The year was 1839, and nine years into France’s occupation of Algeria the resistance had grown self-confident. Only weeks earlier, Arab fighters had wiped out a convoy of 30 French soldiers en route from Boufarik to Oued-el-Alèg. Insurgent attacks on the slow-moving French columns were steadily increasing, and the army’s fortified blockhouses in the Atlas Mountains were under frequent assault.


Later that year, a well-known military thinker from Prussia traveled to Algeria to observe Bugeaud’s new approach. Major General Carl von Decker, who had taught under the famed Carl von Clausewitz at the War Academy in Berlin, was more forthright than his French counterpart. The fight against fanatical tribal warriors, he foresaw, “will throw all European theory of war into the trash heap.”

One hundred and seventy years later, jihad is again a major threat—and Decker’s dire analysis more relevant than ever. War, in Clausewitz’s eminent theory, was a clash of collective wills, “a continuation of politics by other means.” When states went to war, the adversary was a political entity with the ability to act as one body, able to end hostilities by declaring victory or admitting defeat. Even Abd el-Kader eventually capitulated. But jihad in the 21st century, especially during the past few years, has fundamentally changed its anatomy: Al Qaeda is no longer a collective political actor. It is no longer an adversary that can articulate a will, capitulate, and be defeated. But the jihad’s new weakness is also its new strength: Because of its transformation, Islamist militancy is politically impaired yet fitter to survive its present crisis.

In the years since late 2001, when U.S. and coalition forces toppled the Taliban regime and all but destroyed Al Qaeda’s core organization in Afghan istan, the bin Laden brand has been bleeding popularity across the Muslim world. The global jihad, as a result, has been torn by mounting internal tensions. Today, the holy war is set to slip into three distinct ideological and organizational niches. The U.S. surge in Afghanistan, whether successful or not, is likely to affect this development only marginally.

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