Deterrence and Influence in Counterterrorism

A Component in the War on al Qaeda

by Paul K. Davis, Brian Michael Jenkins

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Abstract

Historical experience has shown that successful strategies to combat terrorism that is spawned by serious, deep-rooted problems have involved first crushing the current threat and then bringing about changes to make terrorism's reemergence less likely. While deterrence of terrorism may at first glance seem to be an unrealistic goal — concepts such as co-optation and inducement cannot be expected to be effective for dealing with terrorists who have the unshakable commitment of an Osama bin Laden — it may be possible to influence some members of terrorist groups. Such groups are not simply single entities; rather, they are systems, with diverse elements, many of which could be amenable to influence. Thus, to sustain its counterterrorism efforts for the long term, the United States must develop a multifaceted strategy that includes attempting to influence those elements of terrorist systems that may be deterrable, such as state supporters or wealthy financiers living the good life while supporting terrorists in the shadows. The U.S. strategy should comprise not only military attacks, but also political warfare; placing at risk the things that terrorists hold dear; a credible threat of force against any state or group that supports the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction for terrorist uses; and maintaining cooperation with other nations that are also engaged in the war on terror. At the same time, the strategy must preserve core American values, including discriminate use of force and maintaining due process in the provision of speedy justice.

The research described in this report was sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

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