Sunday, April 18, 2010

When Assassinations Make Things Worse

Part of the policy in the 'War of on Terror' thus far has been targeted assassinations. This has also been Israeli policy too. But does it work? It seems not..
[A study by] Jenna Jordan [pdf], a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Chicago, in Security Studies. She did a large-scale study of violent organizations that had been dealt with by the assassination of leaders, and found that such assassinations generally caused the organization actually to last longer than groups that had not suffered such assassinations.

Ooops. So another failed tactic from the cowboy school of counter terror. But wait! There's more...
Ariel Sharon was convinced by some game theorist who knew nothing about Palestinian Arab society that if he could kill off 1/4 of the Hamas leadership, he could cause the organization to collapse. What I heard was that the original basis for this thesis was risk studies of corporations like IBM, where the models had shown that in case of a catastrophe that took out a quarter of the management, the organization would implode.

So Sharon’s government assiduously assassinated suspected Hamas leaders, killing the spiritual leader of the movement, Shaikh Ahmad Yasin, in his wheelchair as he came out of a mosque, along with 17 others, including juveniles. Then titular leader Abdel Aziz Rantisi was assassinated. And so on and so forth. But Hamas did not collapse. It won the 2006 Palestine Authority elections, and even when the resulting government was overthrown by the PLO in the West Bank– with US and Israeli help– it proved powerful in Gaza. The Gaza War was another Israeli attempt to destroy Hamas, which failed miserably. Israeli military leaders professed themselves astonished at how little resistance to the invasion Hamas put up, showing that they don’t understand movements. Movements can afford to lie low during attacks, because they have the resources and support to reemerge once the heat is off.

Assassinating movement leaders, as opposed to organization leaders, is usually worse than useless, especially if the movement has a strong social base in a compact population.

Back to the drawing-board then?

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