Modeling the Complexity of the Terrorism/Counter-Terrorism Struggle: Mathematics of the “Hearts and Minds”

Modeling the Complexity of the Terrorism/Counter-Terrorism Struggle: Mathematics of the “Hearts and Minds”

Chris Arney (Department of Mathematics,United States Military Academy, West Point, NY, USA), Zachary Silvis (United States Military Academy, West Point, NY, USA), Matthew Thielen (United States Military Academy, West Point, NY, USA), and Jeff Yao (United States Military Academy, West Point, NY, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/joris.2013070103
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The United States armed forces could be considered the world’s most powerful military force. However, in modern conflicts, techniques of asymmetric warfare (terrorism) wreak havoc on the inflexible, regardless of technological or numerical advantage. In order to be more effective, the US military must improve its counter-terrorism (CT) capabilities and flexibility. In this light, the authors model the terrorism-counter-terrorism (T-CT) struggle with a detailed and complex mathematical model and analyze the model’s components of leadership, promotion, recruitment, resources, operational techniques, cooperation, logistics, security, intelligence, science, and psychology in the T-CT struggle, with the goal of informing today’s decision makers of the options available in counter-terrorism strategy.
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The United States (US) is the world’s leader in military expenditures, and consequently, the US military is also considered the most technologically advanced and powerful fighting force in the world. But, as is always the case when a small, unorganized force is engaged with a larger conventional force, asymmetric warfare can wreak havoc on the less flexible (Ganor, 2005; Hoffman, 2006; Horgan, 2005; Sageman, 2004). The age of modern warfare has arrived, and it hinges not upon immense armies armed with powerful weapons, but upon a lightly armed, invisible threat. Terrorism as used by insurgents is a protean force, but it has indeed seized a sizeable foothold in cells and insurgencies across the globe (Couch, 2010). As Desert Storm and the 2003 invasion of Iraq have proven, the US military is more than capable of effectively prosecuting a traditional invasion. What the US military must improve upon, however, is its ability to defeat an enigmatic foe who meets it not on the battlefield or on the high seas, but in the living rooms, the schools, and the hearts and minds of ordinary people. Many of these engagements are now called hybrid wars, because they begin with a full-spectrum conflict and then revert to a counterinsurgency (McCuen, 2008). The US military is not alone in its struggle against insurgents. There have been over 300 insurgencies since 1800, and research has shown that the growing trend is one of failure of the “incumbent” against an insurgency that may be less organized, technologically advanced, or numerous, but is powerful nonetheless (Lyall & Wilson, 2009).

In this paper, we model and analyze the terrorism-counterterrorism (T-CT) dynamic while considering such factors such as leadership, promotion, recruitment, resources, operational techniques, cooperation, logistics, security, intelligence, and psychology. We demonstrate a methodology to optimize CT strategy through allocation of resources to achieve the best CT results. Our focus is on T-CT in relation to the situation where the US and its coalition partners are the primary counterinsurgency forces in a host country involved in an insurgency primarily prosecuted by a terrorist organization. We also assume that the US government and its military forces are using the tenets of FM 3-24 (2006) and FM 3-24.2 (2009), which advocate cooperation among many government agencies and use of a full spectrum of counterinsurgency (COIN) operations. This manual calls for a multi-layered approach to win the hearts and minds of the local populace. Using the COIN approach, the US forces are stationed close to the local populace so they can perform the equivalent of armed social work. As US forces win over the local populace, secure areas and supportive peoples eventually grow, creating a positive feedback loop. Through the proper balance of CT operations, the local population refuses to help the insurgents and sides with the local government’s counterinsurgency effort. We also assume that despite an appearance of disorganization, terrorist cells actually tend to be loosely structured around a leadership configuration and many other support factors such as resource assistance, public opinion, and intellectual capacity are important to the growth and strength of terrorism.

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