Ps498, Fall 2002                                         Professor Raymond Tanter

ANGELL B Computer Room                              Friday, 1:00-3:00 pm

Office Hours via email appointment:                     Friday, 3:00 to 4:00 pm



Terrorism and Proliferation



International terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) are twin topics of this seminar. Regarding terrorism, the focus is on the American–led War on Terrorism. With respect to proliferation, the emphasis is on Washington’s effort to effect regime change in Iraq, because of the Iraqi threat of WMD in the aftermath of 9/11. See also war for the liberation of Iraq.


The text is Raymond Tanter, Rogue Regimes. Find selections from non–web based books and articles in the University Reserves Service.


Requested for ps498 via University Reserves Service


Barbara Farnham (ed.) Avoiding Losses/Taking Risks: Prospect Theory and International Conflict (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994.


Robert Jervis, Richard Lebow, Janice Stein, (eds.) Psychology and Deterrence (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1985).


Journal of Political Psychology, vol. 13, 1992.


Kenneth Pollack, The Threatening Storm: The United States and Saddam’s Iraq, Random House, November 2002.


Raymond Tanter, Rogue Regimes: Terrorism and Proliferation  (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999).




Grades for this course derive from scores earned via a midterm writing assignment (30%), a research paper (40%), and class participation (30%). The midterm task is to be a detailed outline of the final paper. That paper should pose puzzles not easily explain with rational assumptions but perhaps understandable using bounded rational principles.


From Cold War to Post–Cold War Threats


During the Cold War, the Soviet threat was the main danger, and there was consensus on how to meet that threat. During the post–Cold War era, aggression by regional states with large conventional forces, such as Iraq, became the menace of the moment. Freelancers operating from failing states also became the danger of the day.


As the 21st Century opens, nonstate freelance terrorists who seek to acquire and use chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction may collude with rogue regimes to compound the threat facing the United States.


A specific topic the class addresses is whether policies intended to deter and coerce have the effect of provoking undesirable behavior. In dispute is the relevance of concepts developed for superpower relations to lesser threats. "Can a dog intended to fight a cat "lick" the kittens?" Can American Cold War policies originally directed at the former Soviet Union also deter rogue states like Iran, Iraq, and North Korea?


Can policies successfully implemented in Europe coerce a failed state like Afghanistan? Is it possible to coerce nonstate freelancers? Given the fact that weapons of mass destruction are not politically usable by a superpower, what would deter and compel a country like Iraq or a freelance terrorist? And if rogue states use freelancers without targetable assets, threats are less effective than in the case of those with targetable assets.


Deterrence is a process of inducing another party not to take an action, either by threatening punishment or by raising the costs of action too high for the opponent to act. Posting a warning sign on a doorway and threatening to shoot intruders or placing a heavy lock on a door illustrate deterrence by threat and deterrence by defense, respectively. Coercive diplomacy is a process of inducing another party either to act (sign on a door warning intruders to run fast because the junkyard has mean dogs) or undo an action (sign stating that unless a person who intruded earlier returns stolen goods, those dogs will come after the thief).


In light of September 11, the American view of terrorism and proliferation is evolving from using deterrence and coercive diplomacy to brute force. At issue is the rationality of post–Cold War actors that engage in terrorism and proliferation. As if there were a rheostat of rationality, leaders on the brighter edge are likely to be more rational and hence more susceptible to U.S. deterrence and coercion; those on the dimmer end are less likely to be deterred or coerced, and hence brute force might be the only alternative.


Contrast Soviet leaders during the Cold War with Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and suicide bombers in the post–Cold War era are on a scale from most to least rational.


Deterrence and coercion should be most effective against the Soviets, and less against Saddam, Osama, and organizations like al Qaeda, which send suicide bombers to their deaths. The course includes cognitive constraints on rationality that explain why deterrence and coercion might fail to influence rogue leaders.


An assumption is that rogue leaders are rational opportunists posing as paranoid victims.


Rational Opportunists vs. Paranoid Victims

·        To what degree are Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, and suicide bombers rational opportunists? To the degree they are rational, they can be deterred or coerced; but without targetable assets, strategic influence is difficult. 

·        To what extent are Saddam, Osama, and bombers paranoid victims? To the degree they are paranoid, they are less subject to deterrence and coercion.

·        Rational Opportunists also manipulate beliefs and feelings of paranoid victims, e.g., consider Osama bin Laden, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a rational opportunist organizations that send suicide bombers off to their deaths for strategic purposes.


Suicide Terrorism

·        Suicide Bombers are homicide bombers who are pawns of “Terror Incorporated” and state–sponsors—not lone zealots.

·        Suicide terrorism has advantages over conventional terrorism: cost effectiveness.

o      Suicide bombing is a simple and low–cost operation, requiring no escape routes or complicated rescue operations.

o      Suicide terrorism enhances likelihood of mass casualties and extensive damage because bombers choose time, location, and circumstances

o      No fear that interrogated terrorists surrender information

o      Suicide terrorism has impact on public and media, due to overwhelming sense of helplessness

o      Suicide bombing a vital part of several terror campaigns, including:

·        Hezbollah's successful operation against the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the mid-1980s

·        Hamas 1994-96 bus bombings aimed at stopping the Israeli-Palestinian peace process


Rationality and Organizational Basis of Suicide Terrorism

·        Mindset of suicide bomber no different from those who wish to live after an operation but know small chances of survival

·        Struggles produce people with willingness to sacrifice themselves for a cause

·        Organizations do not create readiness to die.

·        Task of recruiters not to produce but rather identify predisposition to die and reinforce it.

·        Recruiters exploit religious beliefs when indoctrinating would–be bombers, using subjects’ faith in paradise to strengthen and solidify preexisting sacrificial motives.

·        Suicide terrorism an organizational not an individual–level phenomenon; hence, struggle against suicide terrorism cannot be conducted on an individual level.

·        Profiling suicide bombers less relevant than understanding the modus operandi and mindset of terrorist leaders who would never consider killing themselves, but opt for suicide terrorism as a result of cold reasoning.

·        Many terrorist groups skeptical of suicide terrorism’s strategic value but resort to this tactic in exceptional circumstances.

·        Al Qaeda, Egyptian Islamic Group, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, Algerian Armed Islamic Group use suicide in exceptional situations.

·        Leaders obtain ideological or theological legitimization for suicide terrorism use, recruit and train volunteers, and then send them into action with a specific objective in mind, such as World Trade Center and Pentagon.

·        Most spectacular operations of Hezbollah between 1983 and 1985, of Hamas between 1994 and 1996, and of the PKK between 1995 and 1999 fall within category of suicide terrorism as temporary strategy.

·        Leaders who opt for suicide terrorism as a temporary strategy are usually moved by an intense sense of crisis, a conviction in the effectiveness of this new tactic, endorsement by the religious or ideological establishment, and the enthusiastic support of their community.

·        Because of strong feelings of nationalism, suicide bombers are willing participants in the struggle for national liberation

·        But bombers also may be unwitting tools of leaders who use they vulnerability and mental condition to achieve national aspirations


Countering Suicide Bombers

·        Perception of suicide bombers as lone, irrational fanatics who cannot be deterred may be invalid.

·        If suicide bombers are nothing more than instruments of terrorist leaders who expect their organizations to gain tangible benefits from this shocking tactic, threatening or eliminating the leadership may deter suicide bombers.

·        Key to countering suicide bombers is to make terrorist organizations aware that this decision will incur painful costs.

·        Achilles’ heel of suicide terrorists is that they are part of a large, operational infrastructure. Deter organizations, deter suicide bombers.


See Ehud Sprinzak, Rational Fanatics, Foreign Policy, September/October 2000, which is available as a PDF file online.


Rational Choice

·        Close windows of opportunity with power and commitment

·        Successful deterrence and coercion if target acting to secure gains rather avoid losses

·        Gain seekers stand in front of windows of opportunity waiting to jump

·        If credible commitment to resist risk averse challengers with targetable assets, then successful deterrence and coercion

·        War from actions of power–hungry, error–free, cold–hearted mercenaries not checked by capability and credible commitment

·        World War II paradigm—confront Hitler to deter aggression

·        “No Trespass” and “Warning” signs to deter crimes of opportunity


Bounded Choice (Prospect Theory)

·        Open basements of fear with reassurance

·        Failed deterrence and coercion because target acting to avoid losses

·        Threats inappropriate for fearful individuals

·        If those in front of window of opportunity are mercenaries, then actors in basement of fear are paranoids, unable to make rational calculations

·        Escalation through miscalculation: counterproductive aspects of threats when used with interlocking fears

·        World War I: Reassure the threatened to avoid preemptive strikes and preventive wars

·        War from the actions of fear–driven, mistake–ridden, risk–prone paranoids

·        “Welcome” signs to reassure actors in basements of fear


Prospect Theory Principles

·        Loss aversion, endowment effect, effort justification

·        Loss aversion: Deterrence and coercion problematic if target frames situation in domain of loss rather than gain

·        Endowment effect: Deterrence and coercion problematic if target overvalues current possessions; individuals endow possessions with value in excess of what they paid for them

·        Effort justification: Deterrence and coercion difficult if target overvalues because effort to acquire goods: The more effort it takes to obtain a set of goods, the more individuals value those items

·        When loss aversion, endowment effect, and effort justification operate in the same direction, deterrence and coercion of dubious validity

·        People desire gains less than they fear losses

·        If goal is gain, then risk averse

·        If purpose is loss avoidance, then risk acceptance

·        Threats appropriate when people are in domain of gain rather than in realm of deprivation


At issue: How to determine the dominion for a particular actor, which is very important for student papers for this seminar!


Topics by Dates


Friday, 6 September (No class) Rational Choice Theory


Rational Decisionmaking: Efficiency Of Choice And Reasonableness of Estimates


Search, Persuasion, and Strategy


Prisoner’s Dilemma and Chicken


Strategy and Brute Force


Deterrence and Coercion


Decision Theory


Friday, 13 SEP 2002: Bounded Rational Choice


Jervis, Lebow, and Stein, Psychology and Deterrence pp. 1-33 and pp. 180-232 (Introduction; Perceiving and Coping with Threat; The Deterrence Deadlock; Conclusions), University Reserves


Constraints on Rationality


Psychological Critique of Deterrence Theory


Friday, 20 SEP: Bounded Rational Choice


Prospect Theory; Farnham 1-40 (Introduction; Political Implications of Loss Aversion), University Reserves


Farnham 119-157 (Prospect Theory and International Relations; Prospect Theory and Political Analysis; Conclusions), University Reserves


Robert Jervis, “Political Implications of Loss Aversion,” Political Psychology, University Reserves,


Jack Levy, “Prospect Theory and International Relations,” Political Psychology, University Reserves


Eldar Shafir, “Prospect Theory and Political Analysis,” Political Psychology, University Reserves


Friday, 27 SEP:


Rogue Regimes Foreword, Chapters One (Personality, Politics, and Policies); Two (Iran)


Iran in the Axis of Evil


How Much of an Axis and How Evil?


Friday 11 October,


Rogue Regimes Chapters Four, (Libya) Five (Syria)


Friday, 18 October: The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, War on Terrorism


Ely Karmon, Little Connection of pre 9/11 al Qaeda to Historic Palestine


Growing Connection between post 9/11 al Qaeda on the Run and Lebanese Hezbollah


Suicide or Homicide Bombers: Inside the world of the Palestinian suicide Bombers


Rationality of Suicide Terrorism: Ehud Sprinzak, Rational Fanatics, Foreign Policy, September/October 2000.


Rogue Regimes, Chapter Seven (Rogue Regimes, Contractors, and Freelancers)


Washington Post on Osama bin Laden


The University of Michigan Documents Center Site War on Terrorism


The Washington Institute for Near East Policy re September 11 and the Saudi Connection


Council on Foreign Relations War on Terrorism


Wednesday, 23 October:


U.S. National Security Departments and the War on Terrorism


Friday, 1 November: War on Terrorism


Washington Post on Iraq and the War on Terrorism


Friday, 8 November: Liberation of Iraq


The Washington Institute Five Options for U.S. Policy


The Washington Institute Iraq Options


The Washington Institute Clinton Approach: U.S. Policy In The Gulf: Five Years Of Dual Containment


The Washington Institute Dual Containment-Revive It or Replace It?


Rand Corporation, Daniel Byman and Matthew Waxman, Confronting Iraq: U.S. Policy and the Use of Force Since the Gulf War


Council on Foreign Relations Foreign Affairs, Kenneth Pollack, Next Stop Baghdad


The Washington Institute Michael Rubin, How to Free Iraq


Friday, 15 November: Liberation of Iraq


Rogue Regimes Chapter Three (Iraq)


Anthony Cordesman, Center for International and Strategic Studies, The Conventional Military Balance in the Gulf


Anthony Cordesman, Center for International and Strategic Studies, Iraqi War Fighting Capabilities and Anthony Cordesman, CISS, Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction


Friday, 6 December: Liberation of Iraq


Kenneth Pollack, The Threatening Storm: The United States and Saddam’s Iraq, Random House, November 2002.


Raymond Tanter The Washington Institute, Preemptive Strikes and Preventive War


Raymond Tanter, Implications of Rogue Regime Change in Baghdad for the Arab–Israel Conflict


Papers Due