How to Deter Terrorism

Matthew Kroenig, Barry Pavel
Content Type
Journal Article
The Washington Quarterly
Issue Number
Publication Date
Spring 2012
Center for Strategic and International Studies
For more than 50 years during the Cold War, deterrence was a cornerstone of U.S. strategy. The United States aimed to prevent the Soviet Union from attacking the West by threatening to retaliate with a devastating nuclear response. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, however, many observers argued that deterrence was irrelevant to the U.S.-led war on terror. Analysts claimed that unlike the Soviet Union's leadership, terrorists were irrational, willing to incur any cost (including death) to achieve their goals, and would be difficult to locate following an attack. For these reasons and others, it was thought that threats to retaliate against terrorists would be inherently incredible and insufficient to deter terrorist action.
Political Geography
United States