Deterring Mass-Casualty Terrorism
NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIV WASHINGTON DC INST FOR NATIONAL STRATEGIC STUDIES
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Western governments have become preoccupied with preventing mass-casualty terrorism. The American-led campaign against al Qaeda has shown that the preventive strategies most likely to succeed must focus on disrupting and destroying suspect groups and their capabilities. Indeed the emphasis of the Bush administration on preemption as a central pillar of emerging U.S. strategic doctrine indicates that this approach is the best way to deal with chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or enhanced high explosive CBRNE weapons. While active disruption and destruction constitute the most realistic options at hand, does this mean that deterrence has nothing to offer as an element of a broader, comprehensive strategy for preventing mass-casualty terrorism The object of deterrence is preventing real or potential enemies from initiating hostile acts. It differs from but is related to the concept of compellence--more often known as coercion--where the goal is getting an enemy to do something to alter its behavior and an existing state of affairs. For example, air strikes by the United States against Libya in 1986 were intended in part to compel Colonel Qaddafi to stop sponsoring terrorist activity against American targets in Europe. The aim was changing Libyan policy, under which the regime sponsored terrorism, not preserving it. A deterrent strategy can rely on one or both of two mechanisms. First, it can be based on threats to visit punishment on an enemy that significantly outweighs the gain of a particular course of action. This approach is traditionally viewed as targeting civilian assets and constituted the basis of the Cold War concept of mutual assured destruction. Another approach is based on the concept of denial. Specific capabilities deter enemies from pursuing either a given objective or a conflict strategy.
- Government and Political Science
- Unconventional Warfare