The situation in Gaza and Israel seems set for temporary escalation. Again. And as almost always when Israel resorts to the use of military force, a chief justification is to “restore” deterrence. But what does that mean?
Our predominant view of deterrence is still strongly influenced by the Cold War. Using force, especially nuclear weapons, would have meant a total breakdown of deterrence. A major military operation, therefore, can only mean a failure of deterrence. Using force, by definition, cannot be deterrence.
Well, that’s different in the Israeli experience — and, it turns out, also in our own experience, if one sheds these highly naïve views about deterrence that became the norm during the Cold War. The Cold War is over. Time to refurbish the idea of deterrence.
Ethan Bronner has an excellent article in today’s New York Times that touches this problem. But it only begins to scratch the surface. Earlier this year I published an article on this very question, “Deterrence Beyond the State. The Israeli Experience” (pdf) in Contemporary Security Policy.
In my view this is a truly important subject. Current events in the region should make this abundantly clear. But unfortunately it seems to be far less attractive than talking about the nonsensical “Twitter War” (that’s what too many journalists seem to consider a sexy subject).
So let’s make this a bit easier and approach the wicked problem of deterrence from a more populist angle:
@idfspokesperson won’t that make it harder for you to kill them
— Sam Biddle (@samfbiddle) November 14, 2012
That rather odd exchange epitomizes the misunderstanding I’m talking about.
If you want to get to the bottom of it, read the article.