Democracy and Terror


The Liberal Democracies Facing Asymmetric Conflicts (LD-AC) project was established because of the growing need on the part of liberal democracies to effectively deal with non-state actors (NSAs) in various confrontations. The project is intended to create a theoretical framework – and, at a later stage, a doctrine – capable of improving the capacity of liberal democracies for coping with terror organizations of various types while, at the same time, preserving their democratic values. 


The project’s working assumption is that the character of war has changed - today it is fought in four arenas simultaneously: military (the battlefield), diplomatic, media and legal. In order to understand the essence of modern warfare and in order to formulate a doctrine and a relevant strategy for waging a modern war, there is a need for learning about and intensely studying all four arenas of confrontation and their impact on one another. The purpose of the project is to study the subject of liberal democracies facing asymmetric conflicts from various scholarly and practical vantage points and to create synergy between them with the aim of influencing decision-making processes in the field of asymmetric conflicts in its different forms. In order to attain this goal, the project will merge insights from various research disciplines and will also base itself on collaboration between scholars and practitioners.


The uniqueness of this project is twofold. First of all, it is interdisciplinary and comprehensive. The project’s researchers are experts in different disciplines that can have an influence on the capacity of liberal democracies to effectively deal with asymmetric conflicts: military strategy, public diplomacy, international law, media, etc. Second, the project will utilize a research methodology that will merge academic and theoretical research with the insights of experienced practitioners in the field who will criticize the proposals that will be raised from their own particular professional perspective.  


The project has been jointly set up by the University of Haifa’s Herzl Institute for Zionist Research and Study and the Israel Democracy Institute; its directorship includes Major General (res.) Ami Ayalon, Professor Mordechai Kremnitzer and Prof. Arieh J. Kochavi.


The project’s directorship wants to develop collaboration with additional overseas institutions and experts. Those Collaborations is of immense importance because the project aims at developing insights of universal significance that will go beyond the insights that have been reached up until now on the Israeli case study.


In accordance with the project’s goals, it will have three working groups, each of which will comprise academic experts as well as experienced practitioners in the field: military doctrine, ethics and law, and public diplomacy and policy making.


The military doctrine working group will focus on the challenges and limitations faced by liberal democracies in the field of modern warfare and will seek to understand the changes that have taken place in the characters of war due to the proliferation of asymmetric conflicts. This working group will try to supply liberal democracies with effective tools for dealing with asymmetric conflicts. In the past year, the working group, which is headed by Maj. Gen. (res.) Ayalon, began to identify different conflict patterns based on the particular type of terror organization that a given democratic state must deal with. In addition, the working group has begun to formulate recommendations regarding the considerations that should be taken into account when decisions are made on policies for dealing with terror groups in low-intensity conflicts. In collaboration with the formulation of public diplomacy and policy working group, the military doctrine working group has begun to study the impact of media coverage on the battlefield.


The ethics and law working group is concerned with the ethical aspects and the limitations that are imposed on a liberal democracy facing an asymmetric conflict by local, constitutional and international law. This working group, directed by Prof. Kremnitzer and Prof. Amichai Cohen, operates within the context of the Israel Democracy Institute. It analyzes the ethical and legal significance and ramifications of the security, political and operational needs formulated by the other two working groups and in the discussion of legal issues that is described below.


The public diplomacy and policy making working group focuses on domestic and international political aspects (including media coverage and its impact on public opinion) and on the influence of those aspects on the formulation of policies related to coping with asymmetric conflicts. This group, directed by Prof. Kochavi and coordinated by Dr. Moran Yarchi, is still in the stages of construction and is expected in the coming year to concentrate on the mapping and study of the influence of domestic and international factors on the formulation of counter-terrorism policies. It is anticipated that this group will investigate that subject in different arenas, such as the U.S., the leading states in Europe, and the United Nations. As noted above, the group has so far collaborated with the military doctrine working group in discussing the impact of media coverage on the battlefield in asymmetric conflicts.




In addition, a strategy and diplomacy working group coordinates and integrates the activities of the other working groups and their findings, with the aim of formulating a multidisciplinary doctrine that could help liberal democracies engaged in asymmetric conflicts.


The findings of the research have been presented at conferences in Israel and overseas, such as the conferences of the Aspen Institute (in Washington, DC, and in Aspen, Colorado), at a conference of the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Germany, at a seminar on current events in the Middle East at Aarhus University in Denmark, at a conference of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center in Italy, at a conference on law and national security at Columbia University, at a conference of the International Society of Political Psychology (ISPP), at an international conference of

the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) in Herzliya, at a conference of the Israel Political Science Association (ISPSA), at a conference of the Israel Association of Military and Social Scholars, etc.


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