Game Theory and Terrorism

On September 11th, 2001, terrorists attacked the World Trade Center towers, killing thousands of innocent people. Since then, there have been many initiatives taken by countries around the world to counter terrorism. According to CFO Magazine, these initiatives are effective at eliminating organized terror networks but have encourage the growth of smaller terror plots/organizations.

Game theory is all about information, decisions and payoffs. A rational person will choose a choice that provides him/her with the greatest payoff. Each individual's payoff is affected by the decisions of other players in the game. When there are low transactions (communication) costs, the game will likely provide the most efficient outcome.

This theory applies to terrorist cells. Large terrorist cells and terror plots involve many people and require significant coordination. Because of this, the larger terrorist cells have an increased chance of getting caught by western intelligence groups. This means that the payoff is now riskier for large terror networks/plots. This causes terrorist to shrink the size of their terror networks and the size of terror plots. A smaller terror plot will have less of a chance of getting caught because it will not require as much communication, planning or coordination. This decreased risk probably makes the terror plot more valuable to terrorists. In summary, we see that game theory can describe the decisions of terror networks.

1 comment:

Dave Tufte said...

Su Jung Poe 94/100 ("choose a choice" is kludgy, and means nothing without context: your ideas need to stand on their own).

I think you've only started to scratch the surface of the game theory.

Is this game simultaneous or sequential? By arguing that smaller cells result from tougher policies, you're implying that it's sequential. You could even add an earlier layer with the decision to attack (or not attack).

What do the payoffs look like? You've only discussed the possibility of the strategy choices by terrorists after the choice of a tougher enforcement strategy. What about the payoffs for not changing strategy?