Deterrence by Denial: Introduction

Deterrence by Denial is a collection of essays that Professor Jeffrey W. Knopf praises because it “provides a long overdue exploration of deterrence by denial, which has always received less attention than deterrence by punishment.” The book by “stellar collection of contributors,” as commended by Sir Lawrence Freedman, is and will continue to be a critical resource for students and scholars alike.

Part One of this volume provides a theoretical assessment of contemporary denial, presenting insights and lessons derived from several fields and disciplines, including IR, strategic studies, terrorism studies, and criminology. Four chapters make up this section. In chapter 1, Patrick Morgan provides an overview of the conceptual building blocks of deterrence by denial, as it relates to developments in deterrence more broadly. Using an historical approach, Morgan illustrates the various ways in which denial has evolved over the past few decades to reflect the changing nature of interstate security and conflict. He provides a detailed summary of the logic of deterrence by denial, along with a thorough exploration of the advantages and disadvantages denial provides contemporary decision-makers. 

In chapter 2, Alex Wilner reaches back into traditional, Cold War–era deterrence-by punishment theory to reconceptualize and repurpose certain coercive concepts for contemporary denial. He develops three unique concepts: intra-conflict denial, cumulative denial, and communicative denial. Using descriptive historical scenarios, Wilner illustrates how each concept might work in practice in different security contexts.

In chapter 3, Janice Gross Stein and Ron Levi provide a theoretical and empirical assessment of denial (and delegitimation) in contemporary counterterrorism, drawing on concepts and approaches developed by criminological deterrence theory. The authors provide conceptual lessons for building a cross-disciplinary approach to contemporary denial for tackling substate threats and challenges. 

In chapter 4 John Sawyer proposes a new definition of “preventative influence” in counterterrorism, which he terms dissuasion by denial. He then comparatively evaluates the dissuasive effects of defensive (or dividing) walls in Israel and Northern Ireland, drawing empirical conclusions from these two illustrative examples for practicing denial in counterterrorism more broadly. Sawyer then illustrates the methodological challenges associated with measuring coercion in these and other empirical cases. In the case of denial in practice, Part Two of this volume offers an empirical assessment of contemporary denial, presenting lessons derived from interstate and regional conflict, missile defense, strategic culture, counterterrorism, and cybersecurity. Here, different models, theories, and approaches of denial are assessed in practice using relevant cases from around the world. Four chapters are included in this section. 

Part II, “Denial in Practice,” begins with chapter 5, in which James Wirtz offers an empirical assessment of US deterrence and denial, providing a typology of US defense strategies that dominate and characterize contemporary US military thinking and planning. Wirtz illustrates how and why contemporary adversaries of the United States have come to believe that they can defeat American deterrence, and suggests ways in which American decision-makers might reconceptualize US deterrence-by-denial strategies to augment the credibility of their overall deterrence posture.

In chapter 6, Jonathan Trexel offers an in-depth exploration of Japan’s evolving deterrent relationship with North Korea, providing a timely and unique, post–Cold War case study of a deterrent relationship that pits a nuclear-armed state against a nonnuclear (though highly advanced) rival. Using Japan’s ballistic missile defense technology as a backdrop, Trexel illustrates the nature of Japanese denial and its effect on North Korean behavior, providing lessons for other countries and rivalries.

In chapter 7, Dmitry (Dima) Adamsky examines Israeli conceptualization of deterrence. He contrasts Israeli practice of deterrence with traditional or classical interpretation of IR deterrence common in the West, describes how Israeli deterrence archetypes evolved over time and as a direct result of regional crises and conflicts, and traces the evolution of denial strategy in Israeli strategic thinking and culture. He pays particular attention to Israeli efforts to combat, deter, and defeat militant organizations like Hamas.

Finally, in chapter 8, Martin Libicki, explores the complexity of thinking about, applying, and practicing coercion in cyberspace. In terms of cyber denial, he illustrates that gauging success may depend in part on whether a defender is trying to defeat a cyberattack altogether, or simply to effect, limit, or dampen what a cyberattack is meant to accomplish. He applies this logic to high-end cyberattacks launched by one state against another in the realm of critical infrastructure (e.g., strategic cyberwar) and deployed forces in theatre (e.g., operational cyberwar).

In the conclusion, we, as editors of the book, provide a substantive and detailed review of the project’s individual and comparative findings as they relate to the larger study of deterrence. Focus is placed along two lines: advancing the theory of denial within the sub-disciplines of IR, strategic studies, terrorism studies, and criminology; and assessing the effect of denial across various contemporary security domains to generate lessons for putting denial into practice. The purpose of our conclusion is to take stock of the field’s recent advances, and to provide academics and practitioners alike with a guide for further exploring and applying deterrence by denial to contemporary security affairs.

Alex Wilner and Andreas Wenger

Deterrence by Denial: Theory and Practice edited by Alex Wilner and Andreas Wegner is available in hardcover. It is also available as in different ebook formats, which start at $19.99 to purchase and $9.99 to rent. Professors who wish to use this book along with others in the Rapid Communications in Conflict and Security Series for their classes should use the Cambria Book Cloud, which allows for the bundling of ebooks at only $9.99 per title for each student.