Attacking the Leader, Missing the Mark: Why Terrorist Groups Survive Decapitation Strikes

Jenna Jordan, Georgia Institute of Technology

Leadership targeting has become a key feature of counterterrorism policy. Both academics and policymakers have argued that the removal of leaders is an effective strategy in combating terrorism. Leadership decapitation is not always successful, however, and existing empirical work does not account for this variability. A theory of organizational resilience explains why decapitation results in the decline of some terrorist organizations and the survival of others. Organizational resilience is dependent on two variables: bureaucratization and communal support. Older and larger organizations tend to develop bureaucratic features, facilitating a clear succession process and increasing their stability and ability to withstand attacks on their leadership. Communal support plays an important role in providing the resources necessary for terrorist groups to function and survive. Religious and separatist groups typically enjoy a high degree of support from the communities in which they operate, and thus access to critical resources. Application of this theoretical model to the case of al-Qaida reveals that Osama bin Laden's death and the subsequent targeting of other high-level al-Qaida operatives are unlikely to produce significant organizational decline.



The Nonproliferation Emperor Has No Clothes: The Gas Centrifuge, Supply-Side Controls, and the Future of Nuclear Proliferation

R. Scott Kemp, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Technology has been long understood to play a central role in limiting the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Evolving nuclear technology, increased access to information, and systematic improvements in design and manufacturing tools, however, should in time ease the proliferation challenge. Eventually, even developing countries could possess a sufficient technical ability. There is evidence that this transition has already occurred. The basic uranium-enrichment gas centrifuge, developed in the 1960s, has technical characteristics that are within reach of nearly all states, without foreign assistance or access to export-controllable materials. The history of centrifuge development in twenty countries supports this perspective, as do previously secret studies carried out by the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom. Complicating matters, centrifuges also have properties that make the detection of a clandestine program enormously difficult. If conditions for the clandestine and indigenous production of weapons have emerged, then nonproliferation institutions focused on technology will be inadequate. Although it would represent a near-foundational shift in nuclear security policy, the changed technology landscape may now necessitate a return to institutions focused instead on motivations.


New Delhi's Long Nuclear Journey: How Secrecy and Institutional Roadblocks Delayed India's Weaponization

Gaurav Kampani, Norwegian Institute of Defence Studies, Oslo; Center for Security Studies, Zurich; and RAND Corporation, Washington, D.C.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, many academics, think tank analysts, journalists, and government officials came to perceive India as a de facto nuclear weapons power. The consensus among U.S. policymakers was that normative, rather than technical or organizational hurdles, prevented India from transforming its latent nuclear capability into an operational one. New evidence shows, however, that India lacked technical means to deliver nuclear weapons reliably and safely until 1994–95. Further, until the outbreak of the Kargil War in the summer of 1999, political leaders refrained from embedding the weapons within organizational and procedural routines that would have rendered them operational in the military sense of the term. These deficiencies can be traced to a regime of secrecy that prevented information sharing and coordination among the relevant actors. This secrecy stemmed from risk aversion among Indian decisionmakers, who feared international pressures for nuclear rollback, particularly from the United States.


Contested Primacy in the Western Pacific: China's Rise and the Future of U.S. Power Projection

Evan Braden Montgomery, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments

Despite their disagreements, proponents of deep engagement and offshore balancing share an optimistic but unrealistic assessment of U.S. military power. In particular, both sides in the debate over U.S. grand strategy underestimate the potential consequences of China's military modernization. China's antiaccess/area denial strategy and conventional precision-strike capabilities are already undermining the United States' ability to prevent local conflicts, protect longtime allies, and preserve freedom of the commons in East Asia. Whether the United States intends to uphold the status quo when threats emerge or adopt a wait-and-see approach to regional conflicts, it will need to adapt its military for power projection operations in much less permissive environments than it has become accustomed to during the unipolar era. These adaptations include developing air and undersea platforms that can survive inside denial zones, forward bases that are better able to withstand attacks, and satellite and cyberspace networks that are less vulnerable to disruption.


Help Wanted? The Mixed Record of Foreign Fighters in Domestic Insurgencies

Kristin M. Bakke, University College London

One of the major policy concerns surrounding violent conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Pakistan, Russia's North Caucasus region, Somalia, and Syria has been that these struggles may both attract and breed transnational insurgents, or foreign fighters. Yet despite this growing worry, relatively little is known about the ways in which transnational insurgents influence the domestic struggles they join. Existing scholarship assumes that such “outsiders” strengthen domestic opposition movements by bringing with them fighters, weapons, know-how, and access to financial resources. Indeed, access to such assets explains why domestic resistance leaders may initially welcome transnational insurgents. Foreign fighters, however, can also weaken domestic insurgencies by introducing new ideas regarding their objectives and how these struggles should be waged. The introduction of new goals and tactics can not only create divisions with opposition movements, but can also complicate the ability of local leaders to attract and maintain vital public support. Domestic resistance leaders' willingness and ability to adapt the ideas of transnational insurgents to local conditions is key to determining whether and how foreign fighters strengthen homegrown insurgencies.


International Security is a peer-reviewed journal that publishes articles on all aspects of security affairs. The articles published in the journal are first circulated for doubly blind external review. To facilitate review, authors should submit their manuscripts with a cover letter and an abstract of 150–200 words online via Editorial Manager at http://www.editorialmanager.com/isec. Authors should refrain from identifying themselves in their manuscripts. A length of 10,000–15,000 words is appropriate, but the journal will consider and publish longer manuscripts. Authors of manuscripts with more than 20,000 words should consult the journal's editors before submission. All artwork must be camera ready. Manuscripts sent by regular post should be directed to the journal's editorial office at the address provided on the inside front cover. For more details on preparing manuscripts for submission, see “How to Write for International Security: A Guide for Contributors” (Fall 1991).

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