Sunday, February 17, 2019

Wendy Pearlman and Boaz Atzili's "Triadic Coercion"

Wendy Pearlman is Martin and Patricia Koldyke Outstanding Teaching Associate Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University. She is the author of Occupied Voices: Stories of Everyday Life from the Second Intifada (2003), Violence, Nonviolence, and the Palestinian National Movement (2011), and We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria (2017).

Boaz Atzili is associate professor and director of the Doctoral Studies Program in the School of International Service at American University. He is the author of Good Fences Bad Neighbors: Border Fixity and International Conflict (2012) and coeditor of Territorial Designs and International Politics: Inside-Out and Outside-In (2018).

Pearlman applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Triadic Coercion: Israel’s Targeting of States That Host Nonstate Actors, and reported the following:
States often try to combat challenges from nonstate actors by punishing the states that host those nonstate actors. Boaz Atzili and I call this strategy, which they term triadic coercion. Traditional discussions of interstate conflict assume that the greater a state’s power compared to its opponent, the more it is able to coerce it. Turning that logic on its head, we show that triadic coercion is actually more effective against a strong host state than a weak one because host regimes need internal cohesion and institutional capacity to move against nonstate actors.

In Triadic Coercion: Israel’s Targeting of States That Host Nonstate Actors, we demonstrate this argument by investigating Israel’s use of triadic coercion from 1949 to the present. The first chapter presents our generalizable theory and the second chapter shows how Israel’s use of this strategy took shape in early conflicts with Jordan. The next four chapters explore Israel’s use of triadic coercion against each of its other neighbors: Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority.

Page 99 falls early in the chapter on Syria. It discusses Syria’s profound political instability in the 1950s, a period characterized by class conflict, ideological ferment, successive coups, and rapid turnover of fragile governments, as well as regional competition that played out over and through the Syria state.

This backdrop sets the scene for the Baath Party to seize power in 1963. During the next seven years, Syria would become a key supporter of the incipient Palestinian guerrilla movement. This was due not only to the Baath’s ideology, but also to its regime weakness. Internal factionalism and institutional incapacity drove competing Baath elites to provide Palestinian groups unprecedented support, access, and autonomy. As those groups increased attacks on Israel, Israel carried out intense military strikes on Syria in the demand that it “take responsibility” for securing the border. We show that triadic coercion failed to achieve Israel’s objectives precisely due to the same Syrian regime fragmentation that enabled nonstate actors in the first place.

In previewing these dynamics, Page 99 illustrates our approach and communicates a fundamental lesson: analysis of counter-insurgency or counter-terrorism strategies must give the utmost attention to the domestic political complexities of the entities that they target.
Learn more about Triadic Coercion at the Columbia University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue