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The General and Immediate Deterrence Concept: Adaptable?

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General Deterrence and the Balance of Power by Lawrence Freedman

DA 3882, Summer 2018

August    , 2018



Tri Yudha Ismanto

LTC, Indonesia Marine Corps

“The General deterrence and the Balance of Power” is an article in which Lawrence Freedman, the Author, presents the debates that is occurred to argue the term of deterrence that is has relationship to the balance of power concept. One of the debate is the familiar policy debate that is more to political substantial rather than academic process, on the other hand, other debate is more to analytical process. The term deterrence is the traditional Balance of Power applied by states to prevent wars and during the war. Freedman brought up the definition from George and Smoke: “Deterrence is simply the persuasion one’s opponent that the cost and/or risks of a given course of action he might take outweigh its benefits.”[1] As the consequences of the Cold War ends, the practice of deterrence were shifted to the complex strategic matter and even has more advanced by the use of Nuclear Weapons. Freedman analyzed the term deterrence can be seen in two ways: the general and immediate deterrence which both are indispensable. Yet, in many theories of deterrence, Freedman has no intention to challenge all theories, instead, “his concern is with analytical focus on deterrence as an immediate problem of crisis management rather than as a more general feature of international relations.”[2] Freedman, in his article is explore the idea of deterrence theory that comes from the notions of the Balance of Power in the International Relationship theory. By the conclusion that has been made by Freedman about general deterrence that has been describes as an institutional persception by a state or group of states that, despite continuing antagonism, it should not expect to be able to resolve its dispute with another state or group of states by military means.[3] Thus, the immediate deterrence appeared as the consequential practice.

We can see that, there are some changes applied to the deterrence concept in theory and practice, such as the use of nuclear weapons is one of changes has been made. In this case, however, we won’t use Nuclear weapons to fight againts terrorist or insurgents. This essay will contributes on Freedman’s analytical focus on general deterrence as an immediate problem on crisis that should adaptable in practical way: the deterrence concept that is relevant to the effort of combating terrorism; the Multi Actors incorporated in deterrence who contributes to stability; and the deterrence concept to face the guerrilla warfare.

The deterrence concept that is relevant to the effort of combating terrorism

        The concept of deterrence in practice which Freedman said, according to the definition by George and Smoke about the “phrase Cost and/or Risk,”[4] has the objective to persuade the adversary or opponent to do what our will and goals and not to do something “stupid”. Because the cost will not cheap and the risk of doing “stupid” thing will put them in a big trouble. That is being quiet clear that, the “opponent” mentioned above is merely straight pointed to a legitimate states or country definition or likely the competition of military capabilities, it seem problematic if we think that the deterred is a non state actor or we can say, an example, a labelled terrorist organization like Hezbollah? How to deter them while Lebanon as a legitimate government doesn’t even have enough military power against Hezbollah military wings. In this case, the terrorist is not like the two major powers (states) that have centralized command, but they consist of many elements, formless, and there are no specific Center of Gravity (CoG) and a legitimate leadership. Not all of the terrorist organization known has single leader or a single Center of Gravity which if the leader or CoG caught or dead, so can cause the destruction of the organization. They have a strong motivation and supporters that encourage them to do the “right” thing according to fake leader or even from false religious doctrine. Al Qaeda, for instant, the leaders consider themselves as the messenger of God, and driven to the historical war story of Islam against the infidel. Bin Laden may see himself as a prophet or at least as an instrument of God’s will.[5] Therefore, the deterrence concept should adaptable in the effort of shaping this kind of environment.

        In fact, in the 9/11 attack, it shows that the failure in protecting the US mainland, indicate that the deterrence was not work well. That is a very good example the activation of the immediate deterrence concept to resolve after the 9/11 attacks in New York by create a massive attack to the Al Qaeda under the Global War On Terror umbrella. Moreover, the deterrence concept in combating terrorrism in certain place like fight against Al Qaeda is not easy to determine, unless we know its Center of Gravity. We take Afghanistan as an area example, whereas US has many business activity. The immediate deterrence must applied to protect US interests in Afghanistan by developing massive security component along with adequate weaponry. However, that will not stop Al Qaeda or other terrorist organization attack the US installation. Meanwhile, no compromise to deal with the terrorist, “the best defense is a good offense”[6] straight to the CoG is the best way to deter. Therefore, the next strategy will be to conduct military strategy such as Conterterrorism Operation and break it down into branches of operational units will be more effective as a practical implication of immediate deterrence.

The Multi Actors incorporated in deterrence

        The practical implication, which Freedman mention in the article, the NATO establishment at 9 April 1949 is a usefull guidance and become “flexible response” in the peace time.[7] In fact, this alliance is an example of multilateral actor deterrence that successfully to avoid EAST-WEST conflict, whereas the purpose of NATO establishment is to secure peace and the foremost is to countering the threat posed by the Soviet Union.[8] However, by the time roling, the existence of traditional deterrence seems difficult or sometimes doesn’t work when facing a nonstate actors or state actors who need recognition from others, preserving its existence and even to bring it to the International politics. Lebanon for instant, there is Hezbollah as a political party and have significant seat in the parliament that can influence the decision maker. Hezbollah fight against Israel along with the legitimate Lebanese Armed forces, but Israel never care who fight who, They just care the attack is coming from Northern Part which is Lebanon. In this case, nonstate actors who have support from the people, therefore, United Nations (UN) with its Security Council Resolution comes in to mediate the warring parties. In other words, UN play role practicing the deterrence within multinational actor or collective actor deterrence. This called the extended deterrence whereas envisioned as one actor projecting deterrence to protect another.



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