Deterrence by Denial: Chapter 7

A year ago, we published Deterrence by Denial, a highly acclaimed collection of essays that, according to Professor Jeffrey W. Knopf, “provides a long overdue exploration of deterrence by denial, which has always received less attention than deterrence by punishment.” The book, which assembles what Sir Lawrence Freedman calls a “stellar collection of contributors,” is and will continue to be a critical resource for students and scholars alike. To celebrate the anniversary of its publication, we’re publishing excerpts from each chapter. This is an excerpt from Chapter 7: “Deterrence by Denial in Israeli Strategic Thinkingby Professor Dmitry (Dima) Adamsky.

This chapter explores the shifts in Israeli thinking about deterrence and examines the role that deterrence by denial currently plays in Israeli security policy. In Israel, deterrence has been, and still is, one of the pillars of its national security concept, together with early warning, battlefield decision, and, recently, defense. Israelis have been focused on the concept of deterrence and continuously practiced deterrence strategy in their national security. The concept was incepted and articulated in the 1940s and 1950s by the founding fathers of the state. Because the traditional Israeli military doctrine was driven by the “cult of the offensive,” deterrence was seen either as a by-product of the battlefield decision against the state actors, or as a result of retaliation against nonstate enemies. In both cases, it was primarily deterrence by punishment, and not deterrence by denial that, together with a defensive form of warfare, was discredited as irrelevant and traditionally disregarded.

In the last two decades, in framing the transformation of the Israeli national security concept, defense and deterrence by denial has gained more traction. The shift was driven partially by the greater orientation to defense in the IDF concept of operations, weapons systems procurement, and organizational structures, as lessons were learned from the Yom Kippur War and the First Gulf War. In part it was internalizing the change in the nature of the main threats that migrated from conventional to nonconventional and sub-conventional battlefields. The lessons learned during the last decades from the campaigns against asymmetrical enemies employing terrorism and guerrilla tactics also contributed to this transformation. The growing attention paid to deterrence by denial, which deviates from traditional practices in Israeli national security, is the central focus of this chapter. Despite the still-dominant role of offense and deterrence by punishment in Israeli strategic thought, deterrence by denial has taken root and shows promise for managing contemporary Israeli national security threats.

Dmitry (Dima) Adamsky

Deterrence by Denial: Theory and Practice edited by Alex Wilner and Andreas Wegner is available in hardcover. It is also available 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.

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