Most endeavors of humanity are affected by a variety of circumstances that often exceed the protagonist’s or the antagonist’s power to alter. These influences can make or break a deterrence attempt. When circumstances evolve over time or suddenly change, the protagonist must analyze the deterrence equation and strategy being used to ensure continued success. These contextual factors are represented as: x = PRICED
Here (x) is a product of the contextual influences of: (P) as political factors; (R) as regulatory or legal factors; (I) as inflationary or economic factors; (C) as cultural or social factors; (E) as environmental factors; and (D) as diplomatic or international factors.
Antagonists can be emboldened in their plans when lesser officials in the protagonist’s government express opposition. Sometimes these officials may be posturing for political gain prior to an election, while other times it could be an actual reflection of the lesser officials’ constituencies. If deterrence is the goal, a method of cooperation between political parties and officials at all level would advantageous. A failure to show resolve could result in elevation of conflict or the execution of unacceptable behavior by the antagonist.
Antagonists can be emboldened in their plans when the protagonists unilaterally limit their ability to execute their deterrence activity. For example, the US military in the late 20th century and the early 21st century have always avoided the bombing of religious centers. Throughout the Global War on Terror, the terrorist have repeatedly used some mosques as weapon storage areas, command centers, or safe havens for their combat forces. Even more perplexing is that the Global War on Terror mostly has non-governmental organizations as the antagonist. Special militias, terrorists, and clans of pirates are not signatures of international agreements and do not merit their provisions, unless the state operating against them unilateral bequeaths it to them. On an even more extreme argument, many advocates of unlawful combatants being held in prisons outside of the US territory insist the terrorists should have the equal legal protection as an American citizen would under the United States Constitution. It is easy to interpret how the (R) could bolster an antagonist’s resistance to altering behavior.
All activity requires some investment of resources. If an antagonist has sufficient resources, it supports the performance of unacceptable behavior. Complicating matters, the protagonist course of actions are usually more costly. For example, the cost of the missiles used to retaliate against the 1998 terrorists bombing in East Africa far exceeded the investment by al Qaeda in carrying out the attacks. On a greater scale, the large logistical footprint required by forward deployed US military is often questioned by the opponents of the retaliatory actions. Considering future returns, the long-term cost of failed deterrence is higher than the investment required for successful deterrence.
Popular wars are a rarity in some societies. However, some cultures are taught to believe that some wars or struggles are a high calling. A war-shy cultured protagonist can not hope to succeed in deterrence by merely threatening war with a war-worshipping cultured antagonist. If other factors are favorable, a protagonist can achieve success even if the social factors are rallied against him, but not by ignoring the factor completely. Some energy will be required by the protagonist to educate the population of his state about the necessity of deterrence.
In ancient days, warring armies would take a break from war to plant their corps, then another break to harvest their crops. And if they lived in harsh winter lands, they’d take the winter off. That’s why Washington’s troops crossing the Delaware River worked—it was during the winter thus making it a surprise. For years the Russian people have had an ally in their harsh winters, two of the most famous events are the 1812 defeat of Napoleons forces and the 1942 defeat of Hitler’s forces. Likewise the wind swept deserts of Iraq and the jagged mountains of Afghanistan had served them well over the years. However, with the dual blessing of advanced technology and an economy that can support a force structure based on that technology, those barriers could not stop the American forces following 9/11. Environmental factors are sure to influence the deterrence equation in the future. For deterrence to be successful, it will require an antagonist to understand that the protective barriers of antiquity will no longer shield them.
As the old saying goes, “There’s safety in numbers and more fun too.” While the United States of 2007 possesses sufficient resources to win a war with any nation on earth, it does not have the ability to deter all potential antagonists by itself. Antagonists can be emboldened by dissenting diplomatic stances of major powers around the world. Even more so if the United Nations fails to diplomatically pressure antagonists to alter unacceptable behavior plans. Creating unity among the members of the United Nations is a near impossible task. However, the major financial supporters of that organization probably have sufficient power to reach compromises in policy that would lend itself to support deterrence. Lacking support for the protagonist, it is crucial to prevent support for the antagonist, if deterrence is to succeed.
Each of the contextual factors used to determine probability of success must be translated into a numerical value before they can be inserted into the equation. Much like as with the sufficiency index values for ways and means, the contextual factors influence the equation to predict the success or failure of a deterrence strategy. If the antagonist is reasonably convinced that contextual factors will prevent otherwise capable resources from divesting him of his precious possession, deterrence will fail. For example, columns of Soviet-supplied North Vietnamese tanks vanquished the South Vietnamese military and captured the capital city of Saigon in 1975. Those same ground forces had been thwarted by American military might every time they attempted to advance throughout the duration of the war in Southeast Asia. Even though, at the same time of the invasion, the United States had sufficient military forces (cA), in nearby allied countries, which they were not constrained by diplomatic (D) or environment (E) contextual factors, however they were neutralized by the political (P), regulatory (R), economic (I), and the cultural/social (C) contextual factors presence in the United States. The communist leadership was convinced no action would be taken against them before they began their 1975 invasion.
A value is derived from the index to represent the sufficiency of the factor as it relates to the certainty of providing support or opposition to a specific course of action to divest the antagonist of his precious (cA). Using simple X Y graphs , and expert analysis, the sufficiency of each specific contextual factor can be plotted to obtain the value of the specific factor for the equation. The equation combines these values to determine a synergistic factorial sufficiency value (x), which will be factored against the certainty (cA), thus leading to a prediction of the success or failure of the intended deterrence effort.
Qadhafi’s Libya was once a long-term antagonist to the United States and Western Europe. On May 6, 2002, John Bolton, then the United States Under Secretary of State and later the UN Ambassador, added Libya, Syria, and Cuba to President Bush’s “axis of evil” list that was presented four months earlier. The rationale was they were each (1) state sponsors of terrorism that were (2) pursuing weapons of mass destruction in violations of treaty obligations. After the fall of the Taliban’s government in Afghanistan and the invasion of Saddam’s Iraq in 2003, Qadhafi’s government agreed to reveal and end its programs to develop weapons of mass destruction and has made efforts to normalize diplomatic relationship with western states. Compensations were made to some families of victims of past terrorist attacks linked to Libya. In 2006, the US resumed full diplomatic relations and no longer considers Libya a state sponsor of terrorism.[i] The likelihood of a war between the United States and Libya is nonexistent under the current circumstances. That qualifies as a better condition of peace.
What changed Qadhafi’s perception of how the western world, in particular the United States, could and most probably would respond to antagonistic behavior? It had been all to clear for many years that the United States was militarily capable (cA) of divesting Qadhafi of his life and Libya of its sovereignty (PV), but the contextual influences of the social and political factors may have suggested that it would not be acceptable to the citizens of the United States. However, following 9/11 and the subsequent US responses against two terrorist-supporting states, Qadhafi reassessed his perception of the contextual factors (x). Then the equation tipped not only to produce a successful deterrence product, but Libya moved into a normalized relationship where crisis action deterrence monitoring is not required. Perception is everything.
[i] Central Intelligence Agency, The World Fact Book, https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ly.html