Deterrence is as old as aggression. What has changed is that many people, particularly progressives, want to rely on condemnations to promote peace. Such indulging encourages aggression.

There hasn’t been a nuclear attack in almost eighty years as the likely reprisals would be too costly. This version of deterrence is called ‘mutually assured destruction’. The abbreviation is MAD yet it is logical and it has helped to prevent direct wars among great powers.

It sounds wise to say ‘wars should always be avoided’. Yet history suggests that small wars, a form of deterrence, can prevent far larger conflicts. The devaluing-deterrence trend cannot continue without tempting dire consequences. 

Realism, still the most formidable branch of international relations, sees war as a natural consequence of international systems being prone toward anarchy. Conversely, progressives rather frequently exhibit considerable naivete. LGBQT groups that support Palestinians, and often Hamas, while vilifying Israel, ignore much.

Nietzsche was mostly referring to the declining influence of religion when he famously declared ‘God is dead’. He was right that new forms of morality would emerge. As survival pressures have recently been eroding, diversity, inclusion and equity have been ascendant. 

Within countries, progressive gains influence social, political and economic spheres. The international relations impact is greatest around downgrading deterrence.

Shaping through framing

This largely traces to university and media elites having enjoyed tremendous success at shaping public opinion through framing issues to advance progressive narratives and ideals. Citizens in many countries have been conditioned to see events through oppressor-versus-oppressed filters. Affluent groups are denounced while the underperformance of marginalised groups is attributed to oppression by those more powerful. 

Various facts often support such narratives, yet they are routinely overemphasised by progressives at the expense of focusing on solutions and managing tradeoffs. By depicting the instigators as poor and their adversaries as affluent, killing and kidnapping Israelis is endorsed while using Palestinians as human shields is encouraged. 

Exclusively blaming Israel, while absolving Hamas, does not benefit Palestinians. Rather, promoting such views encourages Hamas to ensure that more innocent Gazans suffer or die. 

Competent national leaders appreciate that Israel’s leaders must defend their people and this includes aggressive reprisals for lethal attacks. Of course it is true that such reprisals are driven in no small part by vengeful emotions, yet this does not detract from how such reprisals are central to deterring future attacks.

Deterrence is high on the list of issues that average people understand better than many intellectuals. This wasn’t always so. When memories of the Second World War still reverberated, few, whether brainy or brawny, took national security for granted. What has changed?

A recent US poll found that only 32% of respondents aged 18-34 approved of Israel’s response to the October 7th Hamas terrorist attack, as opposed to about 58% of those aged 50 and older. European surveys evidence similar age-based disparities.

Survival pressures

While perspectives between young and old have always varied, today’s Western youth are the world’s first generation to be unfamiliar with survival pressures. They are more likely to associate the experience of skipping meals with intermittent fasting than food insecurity. The deaths and deprivations of the Second World War are seen as irrelevant to those indoctrinated by critical race theory or cancel culture dogma.

Woke ideology rejects all meta narratives. Not only are religion and classical liberalism rejected but so are logic and progress. They maintain that language is so imprecise that all interpretations are valid. This makes no sense but if survival to old age is presumed, nothing needs to make sense. 

While social media is justifiably accused of helping to indoctrinate young people with such deeply dubious thought processes, university professors, particularly in the humanities, have spoon-fed oppressed-versus-oppressor narratives to a generation of students.


Meanwhile, mainstream media elites shape how older audiences see the world. The events of 7 October can’t be adequately interpreted without considering how the Abraham Accords were reshaping the Middle East. Yet, as this progress was midwifed by the Trump administration, such considerations were censured by a preponderance of media outlets. 

University and media elites are the core proponents of the woke variant of progressive ideologies. Young people are systematically misinformed while older people are methodically under-informed.

The realist school of international relations is largely shaped by insights that were developed by the ancient Greeks and have stood the test of time. The value of deterrence is among the most important of those insights.


The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR

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For 20 years, Shawn Hagedorn has been regularly writing articles in leading SA publications, focusing primarily on economic development. For over two years, he wrote a biweekly column titled “Myths and Misunderstandings” without ever lacking subject material. Visit, and follow him on Twitter @shawnhagedorn