THBT Governments Should Abandon The Strategy of “Decapitation” in Fighting Terrorism


Info Slide:  In the context of anti-terrorism, “decapitation” refers to the strategy of targeting terrorist leaders for assassination.

Dan Lahav, 2016 HWS Round Robin GF

Check the video here.


Let’s be sharp on burdens. The fact that you have F16 in an army doesn’t mean you’re going to automatically always use your F16s when you’re trying to fight an enemy. This is exactly the same case here. We can defend, from side Opp, that there is a selective strategic use that we can deploy of these policies. What they have to defend on side Gov and justify is an inherent blanket ban of this policy. This is the burden on Gov side.


  1. Why the alternative is significantly worse in many different cases
  2. Efficacy, we’re going to close the hole in the case of OO. We’re going to explain why even if you accept the attacks that they get from both Gov, that the alternative is decentralization in many of the cases. This is significantly worse.

3. Why it’s likely to be used in a selective manner

Argument #1: Alternative

Four things.

1) A lot of the local population actually supports the West when it’s deployed in many different cases. Many Palestinians who live in the Gaza Strip hate Hamas as well. It’s actually a way to rally up population.

2) Look to something that’s about the understanding of this debate. This is not a debate that the West should never have done it. This is a debate that is happening now.

Why does that matter?

Because if this is already something which is associated with the West in many different cases, the local populations have a clear incentive to frame the West for assassinations of different terrorist groups because there are many competing ones anyway. So therefore we don’t get to get to claim the benefits of the selective killings many times, but rather only the blame which is still going to be associated with the West.

3) Moreover. What do Evan and Henry tell you about the alternative?

“We are for things as using and disrupting the supply chains”.

What does this actually do? You’re deploying sanctions on the local population when you’re disrupting the supply chain. You’re preventing them food because in many of the cases these are the organizations that are in charge of the welfare of the population. Which is not a rallying tool, but rather the capacity to not go hungry.

If this is correct, in many cases this is something which is significantly worse in terms of actually rallying up dependency.

Argument #2: Efficacy

Let’s now see why this is something which is efficant even comparing to what we get from them.

So look. The charges we get is, they’re likely to decentralize.

So we’re just going to say why inherently this is a tool that can be used and it’s better than the alternative.

A couple of things to note here.

1) In many cases, centralization is inherent to the way that terrorist organizations operate. Why is that correct? Because in many different situations, you have a capacity that in order to operate you need a lot of trust between different parts of the organization. Why? Because in order to make sure you can subvert Western intelligence agencies, this is something that you need only a small amount of people to have the information of what is likely going on because you have a chance of leaks.

If this is correct, the way they are constructed is that a small amount of people hold the information. Therefore small amounts of people in many different cases is much more valuable.

Moreover, many of them just have unique information, as the context of the West, and their capacity to smuggle things that are necessary to build bombs.

2) Moreover, you can use this tool to send the organization into disarray. Actually frame different members of the organization.

How do you do this? Let’s look at what Israel does. You frame specifically when someone goes to buy cigarette with their deputy every single time, this is when you hit them. Why does that happen? Because essentially then you assume that one of the deputies have leaked the information of when this individual goes outside.

-Note, what you’re triggering is an internal war because you assume that someone from within the organization has leaked information.

If this is the case, what you are doing now is you’re encouraging more distrust within it and therefore not enabling their cooperation.

3) Here is something that we already asked in a POI here. Whether they’re going to publicly know if this is correct.

-Why does that matter? Because if they’re not going to target, leaders essentially now have a clear incentive to go up as quickly as possible.

Not everyone that joins a terrorist organization is someone that is anti-Western ideologue etc. A lot of the people are just hungry and need it as an alternative.

-That matters because essentially if they assume that they just go in a battle on behalf of the country, otherwise now they have an incentive to try to go up in the leadership as quickly as possible. Essentially, it’s like mob logic. Once you get too much promoted, you become the the bank and no one can frame you.

-Now what is happening is you’re creating incentive to just join and progress as quickly as possible even for people that didn’t have it in the first place.

4) Note this is something that you understand about negotiations.

Because assumingly when you think about this tool, now replying to CG, you don’t think about using it against the Irish, even though some of the British people in the panel might have liked that.

a) Something to understand here, if this is correct, look what you actually do in terms of incentives. Now, if you offer diplomatic immunity for people at the time of negotiation, and assumingly, and if CG are correct then these are much more political in the way that they approach and value their own lives, you have more of an incentive to come to the table in the first place. Because you offer them protection while you’re employing that. So essentially you have more of a chance to do that.

b) Moreover, you can kill the radicals that are disrupting them from having the signup of negotiations. Note, the life of many organizations is significantly easier to be able to negotiate and to be able to come to the table if the enemies of the people who are going to be pro your government and pro negotiation is going to be out of the way. This is exactly the way in many cases to achieve that because you’re going to remove them outside of the way.

POI: Would you then never support decapitation technique with a group you can negotiate with at some point in the future?

If I have a very clear structure in which I’m likely to sign an actual peace treaty and I know this is something that is likely to stop it, then yes, we would oppose it. This is something that is a weird logic.

If not, and it’s worse in the alternative, well obviously we’re going to use this tactic. We’re not going to use it every single time. It’s a weird case you’re trying to argue here.

Argument #3:  Why this is likely to be used in a restrained way

1) In many cases there is an asymmetry of information. Because the West intelligence service agencies are actually just better and you’re going to be able to predict.

Correct, you’re not going to be correct in every single time, but you do have prediction capabilities in many of the different cases.

2) You take a huge harm to yourselves in term of how supervision goes if you misuse it in many cases. If Israel is going to misuse it and just arbitrarily kill people, the Israeli population is going to be harmed as a result. So you have a negative externality upon yourself in many cases if you misuse it. Therefore the clear incentive is to make sure that you do it selectively and smart.

3) Moreover, the vast majority of cases, these are democracies, which do have some amount of supervision. Not a perfect one, but we do have a way to supervise what’s going on because the media is active in these cases.

4) Simply the way this has been used so far, just look at the empirics of how we used it. We didn’t use it on the Irish even though it was a clear tactic that had existed. We had planes at that time, and we didn’t choose to deploy it. However, we do use it against the extremist of Hamas which are not enabling to have toolsets at that time.

This is something which is likely in many cases to be asymmetrical in terms of the amount of efficacy on the inherent part of how terrorist organizations are like. This is something that in many cases is likely to be better than the alternative. And this is something which actually incentivizes negotiation.

On all of these grounds, oppose.