The Game Theory of Terrorism

In 1960, at the height of the Cold War, Nobel Prize-winning American economist Thomas Schelling [5] introduced the world to his “theory of strategy,” an adaptation of game theory to the world of international relations. In his book, The Conflict of Strategy, Schelling coined the concept of a “focal point” (now known as a “Schelling point”) to describe how individuals and nations reach an agreement when bargaining with each other. The process involves anticipating what the other person or country might do. To demonstrate, in the 1950s, Schelling asked a group of students to pick a place in New York City where they could meet a stranger without having coordinated a place and time beforehand. Without knowing what any of the other students said, most of them not only picked the information booths at Grand Central Station, but nearly all chose to arrive at noon.

Schelling later conducted a second experiment. He gave a group of people sheets of paper with 16 squares. He promised a prize if they all checked the same box. Statistically speaking, only six percent should have checked the same one. In reality, 60 percent checked the top left square. This means that people can reach the same conclusion when properly motivated without having even spoken to one another.

Although Schelling certainly could not have foreseen the application of this idea to defeating ISIS, it is eerily appropriate. If we apply the 16 squares scenario with radicalization, what we are trying to prevent is, in effect, this “psychic moment,” as Schelling calls it, when likeminded individuals all come to check the same box: engage in terrorism. Around 20,000 plus foreign fighters, many of whom grew up in prosperous, democratic countries, have already done so.
The suggestion that the theorists reach is one we agree with independently -- the Caliphate must be destroyed.


Ymar Sakar said...

One wouldn't need to destroy the Caliphate if Islam was truly disunited and lacking a central hierarchy. But as with the Left, the unified hierarchy exists.

The people in the desert seeing the mirage of "let us have the Sunnis and Shia kill each other in endless battles, that'll solve the problem" were going to die before they even got to the mirage.

Grim said...

Who leads this hierarchy, do you think? How does it bypass the Sunni-Shi'a split?

Tom said...

The United States Army has a unified hierarchy. Neither the Left nor Islam do in any meaningful sense.

Ymar Sakar said...

Since the commander in chief of the United States Army is Hussein Obola, that means they are under the unified command of the Left's God King.

To Grim, an alliance is made based on mutual enemies. Just as the Sunni Shia heresy wars didn't save the Christians or Zoroastrians, neither will internal faction disputes in the Western world.

To find the money men behind a project, follow the money. To find the leader of a unified hierarchy, trace the obedience of commands back to the source.

But in any alliance, people will generally follow commands to fight a common enemy.

To claim that a virus does not have the resources to break down a strong immune system has the virus's number, is one thing. To say that the activated status of HIV lacks the ability to command and subvert the immune system of its host, is another.

People who think the Left and Islam do not have a unified hierarchy, think having two factions in any organization means that organization is not and can never be unified. That is of course, what happens when people have never learned to subvert nor dominate a organization of humans.

Ymar Sakar said...

When an Islamic Caliph, gives a divine order to the Muslims, say a Sunni Caliph to the Sunni believers, to die for jihad, more will follow that order on a percentage than would be the case if the United States Commander in Chief gave the order for the entire US military to die, be followed.

While extenuating circumstances may modify the percentages by a great degree, I find the belief that the US military has a "unified hierarchy" when substantially less of its members are fanatically driven and true believers Obedient to Authority, an ignorant assessment of human nature and human organizations.

An organization focuses and commands the power of the masses, that is the whole point of the structure. To say that a command is not unified because there are various incompatible factions in it... in that sense, the US military has never been unified either. Robert E Lee was a student of West Point, served the Union in various campaigns, but also was loyal to his Southern state, even as anti slavery as he was personally