Violent Systems: Defeating Terrorists, Insurgents, and Other Non-State Adversaries   [open pdf - 358KB]

Inter-state war no longer dominates the landscape of modern conflict. Rather, collective violence and challenges to the international system come increasingly from violent non-state actors (VNSA). With few exceptions, VNSA play a prominent, often destabilizing role in nearly every humanitarian and political crisis faced by the international community. The broad spectrum of objectives and asymmetric methods of these contemporary Barbary Pirates fractures our traditional conceptions of deterrence and warfighting. We contend that deterrence remains a viable strategy for meeting their challenge if adapted to an understanding of VNSA as dynamic biological systems. The prolonged utility of deterrence hinges on insight into VNSA life cycles and a broader conception of the psychology inherent to organizational decision-making. Bundled as "broad biological deterrence" (BBD), we develop deterrent strategies that tackle the VNSA threat throughout its life cycle. However, we also realize that deterrence may not work in every case. This sets up a counter-VNSA (C-VNSA) strategy that goes beyond coercion to the defeat of the enemy. At its core, our CVNSA strategy defeats a VNSA by: 1) denying the negative entropy, or stores of energy, required to survive attack; and 2) disrupting congruence, or fit, among sub-systems to achieve system failure. By also understanding the indicators of organizational change during its developmental life-cycle, preemptory defeat before the VNSA reaches maturity becomes feasible. Importantly, our approach allows for measuring campaign progress by assessing changes in VNSA effectiveness. Thus armed, prospects improve for inter- and intra-governmental collaboration, on-target intelligence collection and analysis, and successful execution of a multi-facetted, effects-based strategy.

Report Number:
INSS Occasional Paper 52
Public Domain
Retrieved From:
United States Air Force Institute for National Security Studies http://www.usafa.af.mil/inss
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