Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Counter Intuitive Results about Terrorism

I was reading an interesting paper today, "Modeling Jihad: A system Dynamics Model of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat Financial System", and ran across some interesting points.

1. Most terrorist groups will be in a slow decline until they disappear. The capability of the population to donate to the cause can swing the group around increasing in strength. As noted in the paper, this influences the government's choices on what they can do. Counter intuitively, improving the economic conditions for the poor can serve to strengthen a terrorist group. Say the bottom 10% of the population donates and supports the cause. They can donate 10% of their income which is 100 madeupdollars for the 10% of the population. If you increase their economic conditions, lets say by doubling income, then they can donate 20 madeupdollars vs 10 madeupdollars from before. This might strengthen the terrorist group, but probably won't push it toward growth.

You would have to improve conditions by 2x, but then also halve the support to have the terrorist group stay the same (assuming that strength directly correleates with money)

2. Stopping a terrorist group from extorting money may also be a bad idea. The one thing that seems to switch people fairly quickly to being against terrorists is being mugged by their agents. No extortions means that people can keep supporting them with no ill effects to themselves. The report concludes that it is better to dry up other funding streams first, and let the terrorist actions convince the population.

You actually saw this in Anbar, Iraq. The people decided that AQI was no fun, and the alternative (US) was slightly more fun.

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