Stratagem in Asymmetry: Nonstate Armed Groups' Use of Deception
Abstract: The primary question this dissertation seeks to answer is: What
factors affect whether nonstate armed groups (NSAGs) employ deception and what kind of
deception strategy they target against an adversary? The thesis proposes the endgame
theory of deception, which is called such because it argues that for NSAGs engaging in
deception, outcome is more important than process, planners, or ... read moretarget levels, and NSAGs
sometimes use tactical or operational measures to achieve strategic results. The theory
states that given an NSAG's aim to use deception against a state target, then five
requirements summarized by Abram Shulsky--strategic coherence, an understanding of the
target, an infrastructure to coordinate deception and security, channels to feed false
information, and the ability to receive feedback--as well as the target's counterdeception
capabilities and the threat presented to the NSAG by the target are the primary factors
that affect whether the NSAG can engage in behaviorally targeted deception (BTD) or status
quo deception (SQD), two new models proposed as part of the theory, and the likelihood it
will use one deception type over the other. With BTD, the deceiver employs deception to
change a target's behavior. In SQD, the deceiver employs deceptive tactics to keep an
adversary on a status quo course until the deceiver can affect a chosen end. This study
tests these propositions against al Qaeda's, Hezbollah's, and the Liberation Tigers of
Tamil Eelam's use of deception in historical cases. The study's findings suggest that if
an NSAG fulfills Shulsky's requirements, it will be able to engage in deception; however,
to use SQD, it can maintain less robust channeling and feedback capabilities than would
often be needed for BTD. The paper finds that weak target counterdeception helps make
deception possible for the NSAG, and also concludes that the threat level presented by the
target to the NSAG is the primary variable that determines what kind of deception--BTD or
SQD--the NSAG chooses; high threat appears to increase incentives for the NSAG to turn to
BTD. This work is intended to add to the academic literature about deception and to
propose a theory that national security scholars and practitioners can use to help predict
when and what types of deception an NSAG adversary could use in the current era of
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2011.
Submitted to the Dept. of Diplomacy, History, and Politics.
Advisor: Richard Shultz, Jr..
Committee: Robert Pfaltzgraff, Jr., and Rohan Gunaratna.
Keywords: International relations, Political Science, and Modern history.read less