Cumulative Deterrence and the War on Terrorism
In early 2003 an Israeli agent in the Gaza
Strip telephoned Mustafa, a wealthy Palestinian merchant in Gaza,
to inform him that over the previous three months his son Ahmad
had been preparing for a suicide bombing mission in Israel. Mustafa
was told that if his son followed through with his plans, he and
his family would suffer severe consequences: their home would be
demolished, and Israel would cut off all commercial ties with Mustafa's
company. Neither he nor the members of his family would ever be
permitted to enter Israel again.1 Faced
with this ultimatum, Mustafa confronted his son and convinced him
that the cost to his family would far outweigh any possible benefits
his sacrifice might have for the Palestinian people.
Since the start of the second Palestinian intifada
in September 2000, Israeli authorities have prevented more than
340 suicide bombings from advancing beyond the planning stages.
In addition, they have intercepted 142 would-be bombers, most of
whom were en route to destinations deep within Israel.2
The war against Palestinian terrorism, like the war on terrorism
more broadly, aims to prevent terrorists, including suicide bombers,
from achieving their objectives. Suicide bombers are the most sophisticated
smart bombs ever devised. They are well integrated into their communities,
they are mobile, and they often can choose the best moment in which
to wreak the greatest havoc and produce the highest number of casualties.
Yet as the case of Mustafa and his son illustrates, the right mix
of threats in at least some instances challenges the conventional
wisdom that suicide bombers are undeterrable.
In the war on terrorism, in which suicide bombers
have repeatedly demonstrated their deadly efficiency, the United
States and its friends and allies confront challenges similar to
those Israel has dealt with for years. To meet these challenges,
the United States and other opponents of terrorism will need a strategy
that can more effectively address this threat.
Classical deterrence theory, which emerged
after World War II with the buildup of the nuclear arsenals of the
United States and the Soviet Union and the subsequent concern over
the possibility of total annihilation, is inapplicable to the war
on terrorism. The Cold War divided the world into two opposing camps.
The United States and the Soviet Union, with more than enough destructive
power to wipe out humanity several times over, relied on their burgeoning
arsenals to maintain the peace between them.
The literature on classical deterrence inspired
by the Cold War typically characterizes the deterrent threat posed
by the United States and the Soviet Union as a dichotomy: nuclear
deterrence would be successful so long as the price for launching
a nuclear war was mutual assured destruction. Although classical
deterrence, as articulated and practiced during the Cold War, did
not prevent conventional conflicts such as the Korean War and the
war in Vietnam, in neither case did the United States or the Soviet
Union resort to the use of nuclear weapons to bring them to an end.
In some situations, however, the logic of classical
deterrence theory has proved hugely irrelevant. One particularly
notable case is the Arab-Israeli conflict. Following defeat in three
full-scale wars in 1948, 1956, and 1967, Israel's committed enemies
responded by gradually shifting their main objective from the total
destruction of Israel to a strategy of limited war to achieve limited
objectives. Another effect of these defeats (including the war in
1973) was a noticeable increase in moderation among Arab leaders,
including Egypt's Anwar al-Sadat, Syria's Hafiz al-Assad, Jordan's
King Hussein, and even the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat vis-à-vis
their Israeli neighbor.
A second significant exception to the usefulness
of classical deterrence theory is the current war on global terrorism.
Classical deterrence had no relevance for the 19 al Qaeda operatives
who took control of four commercial jetliners on 11 September 2001,
slamming two into the World Trade Center and a third into the Pentagon.
Only the bravery and determination of several passengers on the
fourth plane, whose struggle with the hijackers caused it to crash
into an empty field in Pennsylvania, prevented even greater catastrophe.
Classical deterrence also has little salience for al Qaeda more
generally or militant groups linked to it. In the war on terrorism,
the United States and its friends and allies need a strategy that
does not rest on the same dichotomous, all-or-nothing conceptualization
of deterrence that prevailed during the Cold War.
This article presents a different conceptualization
of deterrence, one best described as cumulative deterrence. Cumulative
deterrence illuminates the reasons why Israel, in its more than
50-year history, not only has managed to survive in an exceedingly
hostile neighborhood but also has made tremendous strides in improving
its overall strategic situation. It has done so through the considered
application of threats and military force on the one hand and assorted
incentives on the other.
The war on terrorism will not be decided with
a single, overwhelming blow. It is a war that will demand extreme
patience, unshakable resolve, international cooperation, and a creative,
harmonized mix of defensive and offensive measures. It will require
policies that seek to improve the political, economic, and social
conditions of those living in places where terrorism is allowed
to flourish and martyrdom is encouraged. It also will require inducements
that steer would-be terrorists (including potential suicide bombers)
away from their destructive impulses and toward the creation of
free, prosperous, and secure societies.
A cumulative deterrence strategy designed for
the war on terrorism would build on victories achieved over the
short, medium, and long terms that gradually wear down the enemy.
It would involve a multilayered, highly orchestrated effort to inflict
the greatest damage possible on the terrorists and their weapon
systems, infrastructure, support networks, financial flows, and
other means of support. It would demand excellent intelligence,
a broad coalition, and a globalized network that would facilitate
the exchange of vital information and encourage transparency. Finally,
it would require cutting-edge technology and highly trained military
forces. The ultimate goal should always be 100 percent enemy inaction.
The next section describes the key differences
between classical and cumulative deterrence. The following section
considers the application of the cumulative deterrence model to
the Arab-Israeli conflict. The usefulness of cumulative deterrence
for the global war on terrorism is the subject of the penultimate
section. The conclusion summarizes the article's main findings.
Classical deterrence and cumulative deterrence
differ in fundamental ways: from conceptualization to implementation
to desired results.
Classical deterrence theory emerged in the
aftermath of World War II in response to the growing hostility between
the United States and the Soviet Union as well as their NATO and
Warsaw Pact allies. The threat of mutual assured destruction made
the notion of a nuclear first strike unthinkable. Thus, confronted
with horrific images of a "nuclear winter," the superpowers,
while nevertheless continuing to build up their nuclear arsenals
to staggering heights over the next half century, stopped short
of giving the order to unleash even one of these fearsome weapons.
Although both the United States and the Soviet Union would engage
in proxy wars throughout the Cold War, the threat that any of these
could escalate into a nuclear exchange was a constant reminder of
the awesome destructive power of these two formidable adversaries.
Scholars frequently define deterrence in dichotomous
terms. For Patrick Morgan, deterrence is "the use of threats
of harm to prevent someone from doing something you do not want
him to."3 Yehoshaphat Harkabi defines
deterrence as the "threat of heavy punishment for an act by
the enemy in order to persuade him to desist from that act."4
Zeev Maoz sees deterrence as "a policy through which one attempts
to scare off a would-be attacker by holding out a drawn sword. It
works as long as the sword is not being used. When the sword becomes
covered with blood, deterrence is said to have failed, no matter
whose blood was spilled."5 These
and other standard definitions of deterrence share a common assumption:
deterrence is successful so long as aggression does not take place;
failure is the occurrence of a single violent act.
In writing about the effectiveness of the threat
of nuclear retaliation during the Cold War, two other highly respected
scholars, Alexander George and Richard Smoke, assert that although
"'massive retaliation' was one enormously potent threat, it
often lacked enough credibility and relevance to deter some types
of challenges to deterrence commitments made by the United States
on behalf of its foreign policy interests."6
In some cases, a weaker adversary might adopt what George and Smoke
refer to as the "designing around" approach.7
According to this approach, an enemy that recognizes its operational
limitations vis-à-vis a militarily superior opponent will
adjust its tactics and operations to play to its strengths.8
Examples include the use of guerrilla warfare in Vietnam, the 1968-70
War of Attrition between Egypt and Israel along the Suez Canal,
and Hezbollah's operational shift against Israel following the latter's
pullout from southern Lebanon in May 2000.
The cumulative deterrence model, discussed
in the next section, posits an explanation of enduring conventional
conflicts that do not fit within the classical deterrence model
for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the most significant reason is
that it assumes from the beginning that there will be repeated breaches
of the first line of security.9 The
model builds on the work of George and Smoke, among others.10
Unlike classical deterrence as practiced during
the Cold War, and whose success hinged on a bipolar standoff that
held in check any impulse to launch a nuclear first strike, cumulative
deterrence is based on the simultaneous use of threats and military
force over the course of an extended conflict. Some scholars argue
that such a strategy is not deterrence at all-that the sword is
bloodied-and therefore oppose the notion that deterrence can be
cumulative. One such scholar is Jack Levy, who criticizes Zeev Maoz's
methodology for measuring the effectiveness of deterrence: "Maoz's
definition of success and failure," according to Levy, "is
not appropriate for the analysis of the success or failure of deterrent
threats. A dispute which escalates to war is coded as a success
for that side which wins the war militarily. This may be useful
for the theoretical questions he is asking, but from the perspective
of deterrence, such an outcome should be treated as failure."11
Thus, Levy employs the same all-or-nothing criteria for assessing
the effectiveness of deterrence as scholars writing about classical
Paul Huth and Bruce Russett, the first scholars
to offer a definition of long-term, regional conflict, measure the
volume of conflict using statistical methods.12
In their study, Huth and Russett adopted Patrick Morgan's basic
conceptualization of deterrence, which has two components: general
deterrence and immediate deterrence. General deterrence characterizes
relations between states that view each other's motives with suspicion
and hostility over an extended period of time. Immediate deterrence
involves specific crises that threaten to erupt into full-scale
war. According to Huth and Russett, such crises can result from
the breakdown of general deterrence; this breakdown occurs over
the following five stages: (1) adoption by the defender of a strategy
of general deterrence; (2) emergence of a challenge by a rival that
threatens the status quo; (3) adoption by the defender of a strategy
of immediate deterrence; (4) continued threats from the rival; and
(5) the failure of immediate deterrence, which causes the defender
to consider a military response.13
Using Morgan's definitions of general deterrence
and immediate deterrence, Huth and Russett regard a continuing conflict
as one that has lasted at least 20 years, during which the adversaries
engage in no fewer than five battles. Examples include Israel and
Egypt from 1948 to 1979, Israel and Lebanon from 1948 to 2000, and
Israel and Syria from 1948 to the present. Maoz defines a continuing
conflict as one that extends beyond 25 years, with a maximum gap
of ten years between clashes; if this period is longer than ten
years, the conflict is considered continuous only if the territorial
issue at stake remains unresolved and there is at least one military
exchange within a 25-year period.14
Examples include Israel and Jordan from 1948 to 1994, Israel and
Lebanon from 1976 to 2000, and Israel and Syria from 1974 to the
Cumulative deterrence works on two levels.
On the macro level, it seeks to create an image of overwhelming
military supremacy. On the micro level, it relies on specific military
responses to specific threats or hostile acts. Cumulative deterrence
has several key features. First, its effectiveness is measured in
terms of the number of victories accumulated over the duration of
the conflict, which we can think of as "assets in a victory
bank." Second, over time these victories produce increasingly
moderate behavior on the part of the adversary and a shift in his
strategic, operational, and tactical goals until there is a near-absence
of direct conflict. Third, this moderation may eventually result
in political negotiations and perhaps even a peace agreement.
The next section offers evidence of the success
of cumulative deterrence in the case of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Through a string of Israeli victories and recognition among Arab
states of their growing inability to counter Israel's ever-increasing
military capabilities, Israel's cumulative deterrence strategy has
succeeded in fostering Arab moderation and improving Israel's overall
strategic position in the region. One particularly noteworthy reflection
of this change is the dramatic reduction in calls from Arab leaders
for Israel's destruction, which for so long served as one of the
most powerful rallying cries within the Arab world.
Cumulative Deterrence and the Israeli Experience
Some Israeli experts claim that Israeli deterrence
is a mere myth. After all, in its relatively short history, Israel
has engaged in numerous wars and border conflicts, not to mention
its involvement in the first Palestinian intifada from 1987 to 1993
and the ongoing second intifada.15
In contrast, I argue that Israel has essentially
followed a cumulative deterrent strategy with three key components.
The first component consists of the impressive array of military
victories that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have accrued against
Arab adversaries since the establishment of the state of Israel
in 1948. The second factor is Israel's huge technological-doctrinal
advantage over its Arab neighbors, which among other things has
allowed Israel not only to produce sophisticated weapon systems
but also to improve their integration at the tactical, operational,
and strategic levels. This same technological-doctrinal advantage
also has made possible targeted operations against Israel's adversaries.
The third feature is Israel's image as a nuclear power, which the
Israeli government has continued to hone while avoiding an official
declaration of the country's nuclear capability.
Mounting IDF victories between 1948 and 1988
resulted in a drastic reduction of violence involving Israel's principal
adversaries, Egypt and Syria.16 During
this period, Israel engaged in six major wars: the 1948 war of independence,
the 1956 Suez War, the 1967 Six-Day War, the 1968-70 War of Attrition
along the Suez Canal, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and the 1982 war
in Lebanon, as well as numerous border clashes that at times threatened
to produce yet another full-scale regional war.
Uri Bar-Yosef is among the scholars who have
recently noted the salience of the cumulative deterrence model.
Bar-Yosef supports the argument that Israel's cumulative deterrence
approach has succeeded in persuading Arab states that the use of
military force to defeat Israel is, in the long run, either operationally
impossible or prohibitively expensive. According to Bar-Yosef, "Cumulative
deterrence is a long-term policy designed to persuade the Arab side
that conclusion of the conflict through the destruction of Israel
is impossible or that it entails a cost greater than the value of
the benefit contained in such a move."17
Bar-Yosef considers the 1967 Six-Day War to
be a critical turning point in Arab perceptions of Israel's growing
military might and the inability of Arab states to effectively counter
it. Following their humiliating defeat in 1967 (including the loss
of the Golan Heights and the West Bank and Gaza Strip), Arab states
shifted to a strategy of limited war to achieve limited military
goals. In the 1973 Yom Kippur War, for example, President Sadat
announced the recapture of a short strip along the bank of the Suez
Canal as Egypt's principal motive for going to war, while President
Assad declared the retaking of the Golan Heights as Syria's foremost
Indeed, successive defeats over several decades
eventually forced both Egypt and Syria to shift their operational
strategies against Israel.18 By 1975
Egypt had begun to exhibit marked moderation in its operational
strategy toward Israel. Tangible proof of this trend is the agreement
on a framework for peace reached by Prime Minister Menachem Begin
of Israel and President Anwar al-Sadat of Egypt at Camp David, Maryland,
in 1978, which was followed by the signing of a peace treaty in
1979. Two years earlier, in a speech before the Israeli parliament
on 22 November 1977, Sadat publicly acknowledged Israel's military
superiority and the country's right to exist. He asserted, "We
agree to live with you in just and lasting peace; we don't want
to attack you or to be attacked by Israeli long-range missiles that
might destroy us."19
From 1976 to 1988, Syria also began to moderate
its operational stance vis-à-vis Israel. With Egypt's signing
of the Camp David peace treaty, Syria lost its key strategic partner
and thus was left on its own to confront Israel. Even earlier, however,
shortly after the 1973 war, Syria forfeited interest in launching
a full-scale war against Israel, choosing instead to open up a secondary
front in southern Lebanon using Hezbollah as its proxy. (Although
Hezbollah remains a serious concern, Israel nonetheless occupies
a better strategic position than it did before 1973.) Moreover,
when Israel invaded southern Lebanon in Operation Peace for Galilee
in 1982, Syria showed significant restraint in using military power
against Israel from the Golan Heights, largely by adhering to a
cease-fire agreement that had been drawn up in 1974.
Further compounding Syria's difficulties, as
well as diminishing the Syrians' capability to launch a surprise
attack, was the demise of the Soviet Union, which for years had
been Syria's primary military supplier. In 1995 Syria's Chief of
Staff, Lieutenant General Hikmat Shiaby, declared, "Israel
is the strongest state in the region. The Israeli air force is able
to reach Damascus in four minutes. Israel has everything: nuclear
weapons and conventional weapons. . . . Israel has got everything,
Notably, other Arab leaders, including King
Hussein of Jordan and Palestinian Chairman Arafat, eventually came
to share the Egyptian and Syrian assessments of Israel's overwhelming
capabilities and their growing inability to counter them effectively.21
In recognition of this insurmountable disadvantage, Jordan signed
a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, despite not having reestablished
control over the West Bank, which it had lost in the 1967 Six-Day
Thus, after more than 40 years of conflict,
the cumulative effect of Israel's multiple victories was to vastly
improve Israel's overall strategic position in the Middle East.
And through a combination of threatened retaliation and military
superiority, Israel has been able to shape and reinforce its deterrent
image in the Middle East. As a result, the Palestinian Authority
and Arab states alike no longer call for-or continue to prepare
militarily for-the destruction of Israel.
The use of threats and force, however, make
up only the operational layer of Israel's cumulative deterrence
strategy. Two other sets of factors- one internal and the other
external-also have been crucial to the success of this strategy.
Internal factors include Israel's highly productive economy (especially
in the field of high technology22),
as well as its advanced infrastructure, well-regarded educational
system, and superior qualitative manpower system-not to mention
intangibles such as unwavering resolve-and the internal cohesiveness
among all of these elements.
External factors consist of Israel's numerous
alliances, contracts, and agreements with other countries, as well
as its strategic relationship with the United States, a regional
alliance with Turkey, and peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan.
Also falling into this category are Arab perceptions of Israel's
image of power, in addition to the role of the media and public
Although Israel's cumulative deterrence strategy
has shown extraordinarily good results in deterring states from
launching direct attacks against Israel, it is too early to judge
its level of success against guerrilla and terrorist operations,
including heightened Palestinian terrorism since the start of the
second intifada. Nevertheless, it is possible to say that Israel's
cumulative deterrence approach appears to have successfully harmonized
and integrated many of the most important operational components
required for success. These include:
• The strengthening of territorial defensive
shields through the establishment of multilayered systems (including
electronic fences, high-technology sensors, special rules of engagement,
security buffer zones, and various delaying obstacles that slow
would-be terrorists from reaching their targets) and an increasing
number of professional units trained specifically to oppose the
• Ongoing improvements in intelligence
capabilities as a major force multiplier.
• Consistent emphasis on infrastructure
operations, such as demolishing the homes of terrorists' families;
destroying the terrorists' weapon factories, storage facilities,
and tunnels; and eliminating the terrorists' financial networks.
• Continued application of high technology
to maintain Israel's relative advantage.
• Increased focus on special offensive
capabilities: for example, seizing the initiative, engaging in surprise
raids, and undertaking clandestine targeted operations-such as those
against Sheikh Yassin, the operational and spiritual leader of Hamas;
his successor, Abdel Aziz Rantisi; and lower-level operatives-all
of which would be impossible without accurate intelligence and highly
• A well-balanced offensive and defensive
• Heightened efforts to improve political,
economic, and social conditions to complement military measures.
Cumulative Deterrence and the War on Terrorism
Does the Israeli experience with cumulative
deterrence yield lessons for the United States and its friends and
allies in the global fight against terrorism? If so, what would
such a strategy look like? What would be its essential components?
And how would success be measured?
As late as 1997, the military doctrine of the
United States embraced an essentially dichotomous approach to the
country's security and deterrent posture. In that year, US military
doctrine defined deterrence as "the prevention from action
by fear of the consequences. Deterrence is a state of mind brought
about by the existence of a credible threat of unacceptable counteraction."23
The statement further asserted that if deterrence failed, the main
objective was to achieve victory: "Deterrence is our first
line of security. If deterrence fails, our objective is winning
the nation's wars."24 This approach
is ill-suited to dealing with terrorists such as Osama bin Laden
and his al Qaeda organization, when the first line of security will
be repeatedly breached in any number of ways. As US Secretary of
Defense Donald Rumsfeld has asserted, "The [war on terrorism]
is a marathon, not a sprint."25
Indeed, in describing a meeting of President
George W. Bush and his top advisers shortly after the 9/11 terrorist
attacks, Bob Woodward wrote, "It was a somewhat obvious but
an important point that got to the heart of the problems they [Bush
and his advisers] were facing-lack of good targets, lack of inside
intelligence sources, the worthlessness of deterrence strategy."
All of which prompted President Bush to conclude, "Our strategy
is more like that of the Israelis."26
Soon thereafter, President Bush ordered the
Department of Defense to devise a new strategy to address the increasingly
deadly terrorist threat. In response, the Defense Department assembled
the National Defense University Task Force on Combating Terrorism.
The task force proposed a "3-D strategy" that had three
principal goals: to defeat, deter, and diminish the enemy.27
By the time the strategy was officially adopted, the word "deter"
had been replaced with two others: "deny" and "defend."
The final document, issued in February 2003, thus put forth a "4D
strategy" that rests on four pillars: to defeat, deny, diminish,
and defend against the adversary.28
With this new statement of purpose, the United States effectively
jettisoned the doctrine of classical deterrence that essentially
became irrelevant with the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. This
more nuanced doctrine relies in part on the selective use of military
force to achieve US objectives. In this regard, the United States,
at least implicitly, appears to have adopted elements common to
Israel's cumulative deterrence approach.
The 9/11 terrorist attacks, not to mention
the 1999 strike against USS Cole and other terrorist actions, raises
a knotty question that Israel has grappled with for years: is it
possible to deter suicide bombers who are motivated by a radical
Islamist ideology and promises of martyrdom? The power of deterrence
derives from the message it sends to would-be attackers: you will
pay an intolerable price for your actions. This threat would seem
to have nothing to offer an adversary driven by an extremist ideology
whose main tenet is destruction of "the infidel," and
whose operatives expect to die in the effort.
Yet as illustrated by the case of the Palestinian
merchant and his son described at the beginning of this article,
it is possible in at least some instances to deter a suicide bomber
by threatening those close to him with extremely harsh consequences
if they fail to stop him from carrying out his mission. In other
words, even in societies that nurture support for suicide bombers,
there are rational actors who can exert influence over these seemingly
Other rational actors include Osama bin Laden
and others who seek to replace Arab regimes they view as corrupt,
including the House of Saud, with Islamic theocracies guided by
the law of the Sharia and the early Caliphate.29
Bin Laden and al Qaeda's top leaders see the use of suicide bombers
as a means toward their ultimate end: a Middle East free from the
supposed corrupting influence of so-called infidels. Seen in this
light, bin Laden may have believed that the 9/11 terrorist attacks
would provoke the United States into invading an Arab state, which
in turn might create regional instability and chaos that al Qaeda
and other terrorist groups could exploit to further their own ends.
The global war on terrorism is similar to the
Arab-Israeli conflict and the war against Palestinian terrorism
in several respects: it pits two opposing ideologies against each
other; it is an asymmetric conflict that will endure for many years;
and it is a war that will not be won with a single, decisive blow.
It requires the simultaneous use of threats, hard power, and incentives
designed to give societies in which extremist ideologies flourish
an alternative vision of their future. The war on terrorism is,
in other words, a war in need of a strategy of cumulative deterrence.
In this war, the United States and its partners not only will have
to accumulate individual victories (i.e., "assets in a victory
bank"), they also will have to diminish the enemy's material
capabilities to a degree that weakens the enemy's resolve and makes
clear the increasingly unacceptable price it will pay for its actions.
As mentioned earlier, at the core of the US
strategy for combating terrorism that was articulated in February
2003 is a model for success that implicitly draws on the model of
cumulative deterrence that has guided Israel's strategy toward its
Arab neighbors for decades. At the heart of the United States' 4D
strategy is the notion that victory is achievable only through a
synergistic, multidimensional approach that utilizes "every
instrument of national power-diplomatic, economic, law enforcement,
financial, information, intelligence, and military. Progress will
come through the persistent accumulation of successes-some seen,
The United States clearly appreciates the magnitude
of the task ahead:
There will be no quick or easy end to this
conflict. . . . Ours is a strategy of direct and continuous action
against terrorist groups, the cumulative effect of which will
initially disrupt, over time degrade, and ultimately destroy the
terrorist organizations. The more frequently and relentlessly
we strike the terrorists across all fronts, using all the tools
of statecraft, the more effective we will be.31
The 4D strategy recognizes the need for a two-pronged
effort that marshals both internal and external forces to combat
and perhaps eventually eliminate the terrorist threat. Internal
forces include factors such as the power of political, economic,
and social values; an overwhelming technological advantage; and
an enormous infrastructure. External forces involve efforts to enlist
other countries in the fight by building partnerships and coalitions.
As the national strategy document on combating terrorism affirms,
"Success will not come by always acting alone, but through
a powerful coalition of nations maintaining a strong, united international
front against terrorism."32
The US strategy for combating terrorism is
similar to Israel's cumulative deterrence strategy not only with
regard to its methodology and objectives but also with regard to
the targets involved. There are two types of targets against which
the United States and its allies must continue to mount offensive
operations. The first target consists of the terrorist organizations
themselves, including their leaders, operatives, and supporters,
in addition to the organizations' infrastructure and financial and
military resources. The second target comprises states that harbor,
sponsor, or otherwise support terrorists and sanction their violent
The results of a strategy based on cumulative
deterrence will need to be measured over the short, medium, and
long terms. Below are some of the key indicators that should be
• Enemy intentions: movements toward
more moderate declarations, statements, and doctrine.
• Enemy capabilities and resources: reductions
in numbers of followers, financial assets, weapon systems, infrastructure,
• Frequency of terrorist attacks: daily
monitoring of such attacks that shows a downward trend.
• Number of daily early-intelligence
alerts: the lower this number, the greater the success of cumulative
As in the Israeli war against Palestinian terrorists,
the goal in the war on terrorism more generally is the total absence
of terrorist attacks (i.e., a 100-percent success rate). But is
this goal realistic? And what if the enemy's objective is world
destruction? One terrorist act with a weapon of mass destruction
(WMD) could cause unimaginable devastation, and there is no guarantee
in a world of proliferating WMD that such an operation could not
be mounted. Nevertheless, 100-percent deterrence must remain the
To achieve success in the war on terrorism,
the United States and its friends and allies need a cumulative deterrence
strategy similar to that pursued by Israel since its founding in
1948. The accumulation of Israeli victories against its principal
Arab adversaries in 1948, 1956, 1967, and 1973, in parallel with
Israel's vast military and technological superiority, have fundamentally
shifted the dynamics in the Middle East. No longer do Arab states
call for Israel's total destruction. Indeed, two of these states,
Egypt and Jordan, have signed peace treaties with their former adversary.
Thus, Israel's overall strategic position in the region has greatly
Although it is too early to determine the overall
success of Israel's cumulative deterrence strategy against Palestinian
terrorists, there are indications that Israeli responses to Palestinian
suicide attacks since the eruption of the second intifada in September
2000 have begun to take their toll. IDF statistics show that in
March 2002, more suicide bombers-17 in all-succeeded in carrying
out their missions than in any other month since the start of the
second intifada. Since April 2002, the IDF has undertaken a number
of actions that have produced a decline in terrorist attempts. In
October 2003, for example, the IDF thwarted the efforts of 22 would-be
suicide bombers, the most in any one-month period.33
Nevertheless, although Israeli intelligence alerts suggest a weakening
of Palestinian terrorist capabilities, more time is needed before
Israel's cumulative deterrent strategy can be judged a complete
Meanwhile, in the war on terrorism, the United
States, in addition to marshaling its vast military capabilities,
must strive to win the war of ideas. In this ideological conflict,
the stakes could not be higher. As Fareed Zakaria writes, "The
Arab world today is trapped between autocratic states and illiberal
societies, neither of them fertile ground for liberal democracy.
The dangerous dynamic between these two forces has produced a political
climate filled with religious extremism and violence."34
Among the most deadly products of this poisonous
mix are Islamic extremists who become suicide bombers, as well as
those who support them. The United States and its friends and allies
must therefore offer an acceptable alternative to these extremists
by helping to strengthen the position of moderates in the Islamic
world. (Efforts to bring US-style democracy, however, are only likely
to elevate Islamic fundamentalists to power.) The United States
and others should work with local governments to establish parallel
secular social services, which would serve as an alternative to
Islamic extremist-run schools, hospitals, and mosques. Efforts should
also be made to encourage more open economies and political systems.
Only through the gradual implementation of
such a holistic approach can the United States and others hope to
win the hearts and minds of those whose help is crucial in turning
the tide against Islamic terrorists and other extremists.
1. Personal account by the
author. Although the names have been changed, this is a true story.
2. Israel Defense Forces
website, statistics chapter, http://www1.idf.il/SIP_STORAGE/dover/files/4/29374.doc.
3. Patrick M. Morgan,
Deterrence: A Conceptual Analysis (London: Sage, 1977), p. 17.
4. Yehoshaphat Harkabi,
War and Strategy (Hebrew) (Tel Aviv: Israel Ministry of Defense,
1990), p. 221.
5. Zeev Maoz, Paradoxes
of War: On the Art of National Self-Entrapment (Boston: Unwin Hyman
1990), p. 65.
6. Alexander L. George
and Richard Smoke, "Deterrence and Foreign Policy," World
Politics, 41 (January 1989), 177.
7. Alexander L. George
and Richard Smoke, Deterrence in American Foreign Policy: Theory
and Practice (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1974), pp. 38-45,
519-22. See also Doron Almog, "The West Bank Fence: A Vital
Component in Israel's Strategy of Defense," Special Studies
on Palestinian Politics and the Peace Process, Research Memorandum
no. 47 (Washington: Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2004),
pp. 13-15. See also http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/pubs/working/almog.doc,
8. Almog, "The
West Bank Fence," and http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/pubs/working/almog.doc.
9. US Joint Chiefs of
Staff, Joint Warfare of the Armed Forces of the United States, Joint
Doctrine, Capstone and Keystone Primer, 30 May 1995, p. 1.
10. For more on the
designing-around phenomenon, see Janice Gross Stein, "Calculation,
Miscalculation, and Convention Deterrence I: The View from Cairo,"
in Psychology and Deterrence, ed. Robert Jervis Richard Ned Lebow,
and Janice Gross Stein (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1985),
pp. 34-59; and Elli Lieberman, "Deterrence Theory: Success
or Failure in Arab-Israeli Wars?" McNair Paper No. 45 (Washington:
National Defense University, October 1995).
11. Jack S. Levy,
"When Do Deterrent Threats Work?" British Journal of Political
Science, October 1988, p. 493.
12. I employed a similar
method in Doron Almog, "Israel's Deterrence Strategy as a Model
for Accumulating Deterrence," which was awarded the Tshetshik
Prize for Strategic Studies on Israel's Security from Tel Aviv University's
Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies.
13. Paul Huth and
Bruce Russett, "General Deterrence between Enduring Rivals:
Testing Three Competing Models," American Political Science
Review, 87 (March 1993), 61-73.
14. Zeev Maoz, "Domestic
Norms, Structural Constraints, and Enduring Rivalries in the Middle
East, 1948-1988," in Democracy, War, and Peace in the Middle
East, ed. David Garnham and Mark Tessler (Bloomington: Indiana Univ.
Press, 1995), pp. 170-94.
15. Ezer Weizman,
for example, asserted, "I do not believe we have ever had deterrence.
We have never succeeded in deterring our enemies. On the contrary,
I suggest using the term 'decisive force.'" Ezer Weizman, On
Eagles' Wings (Hebrew) (Tel Aviv: Ma'arive, 1975), p. 186. In an
interview with Ronel Fisher of the newspaper Hadashot (Hebrew),
on 8 February 1991, p. 18, Major General Mati Peled stated, "Our
deterrence is a legend. We've never had deterrence. The Six-Day
War erupted because we were lacking deterrence. We have never had
deterrence, so we never lost it."
16. This study relies
on data from a quantitative database that spans 41 years of conflict
(1948-88) between Israel and Egypt and Israel and Syria; the data
were collected as part of the Quantitative Historical Project of
the Israeli-Arab Conflict at Haifa University.
17. Uri Bar-Yosef,
"Fifty Years of Israeli Deterrence: Lessons from the Past and
Conclusions for the Future" (Hebrew), Ma'rachot, IDF professional
magazine, pp. 366-77, October 1999, pp. 12-29.
18. Doron Almog, "The
Israeli Strategy of Deterrence as a Model of Accumulated Deterrence,"
Department of Political Science, University of Haifa, June 1997.
19. Quoted in Aluf
Hareven, Wars and Peaces (Hebrew) (Jerusalem: Dvir, 1989), p. 71.
20. Quoted in Barneah
Nahum, Yediot Haronot, 30 June 1995.
22. Israel's gross
domestic product continues to be greater than the combined GDP of
Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon. For details, see Brom Shlomo
and Yiftah Shapir, eds., The Middle East Military Balance, 1999-2000
(Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press), pp. 161-358.
23. US Joint Chiefs
of Staff, Joint Doctrine Encyclopedia, 16 July 1997, http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/joint_doctrine_encyclopedia.htm.
24. US Joint Chiefs
of Staff, Joint Doctrine, Capstone, and Keystone Primer, p. 1.
25. Quoted in Bob
Woodward, Bush at War (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002), pp.
27. The task force
comprised 25 individuals drawn from each branch of the military
as well as from various governmental agencies. See http://www.ndu.edu/library/n2/n02CombatingTerrorism.pdf.
28. George W. Bush,
National Strategy for Combating Terrorism (Washington: The White
House, February 2003), p. 15, http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/02/counter_terrorism/counter_terrorism_strategy.pdf.
See also US Department of Defense, Transformation Planning Guidance
(Washington: GPO, April 2003), http://www.defenselink.mil/brac/docs/transformationplanningapr03.pdf;
and "Prepared Testimony on the FY 2003 Defense Budget Request
to the SAC-D," testimony of US Deputy Secretary of Defense
Paul Wolfowitz before the US Senate, Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee
on Defense, 27 February 2002, http://www.defenselink.mil/speeches/2002/s20020227-depsecdef.html.
29. Fareed Zakaria,
The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad (New
York: W. W. Norton, 2003), pp. 122-23; and Steven Emerson, American
Jihad: The Terrorists Living among Us (New York: Free Press, 2002),
30. See Bush, National
Strategy for Combating Terrorism, p. 2.
31. Ibid., pp. 2-3.
32. Ibid., pp. 4,
33. Israeli Defense
Forces official website, "Suicide Bombing Attacks Relative
to Thwarted Suicide Bombing Attempts" (Hebrew), http://www1.idf.il/dover/site/mainpage.asp?sl=HE&id=22&docid=16703.
34. Zakaria, The Future
of Freedom, p. 121.
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