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Terrorism & Political Violence. Deterrence/Rationality/War “The Terrorist Mindset”. Lecture Outline. Deterrence Theory Game Theory Nature of Conflict Rational Choice versus Conditioning Agents V. The Calculus of Terrorism VI. Strategic Objectives VII. Tactical Objectives

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Terrorism & Political Violence


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    1. Terrorism & Political Violence Deterrence/Rationality/War “The Terrorist Mindset”

    2. Lecture Outline Deterrence Theory Game Theory Nature of Conflict Rational Choice versus Conditioning Agents V. The Calculus of Terrorism VI. Strategic Objectives VII. Tactical Objectives VIII. Misdirection, Deception Strategies, & Tactics IX. Target Selection Strategies X. “General” Target Categories XI. “Specific” Target Categories XII. Summary of Target Selection: XIII. Why Talk About Strategy & Targeting? XIV. Discussion Questions 2

    3. Counter-insurgency In the context of an occupation or a civil war, counter-insurgency is a military term meaning combat or other efforts against a rebellion (“insurgency“) by forces aligned with the controlling government of the territory in which the combat takes place. It refers to suppression of a rebellion and is not exclusively used against terrorists.

    4. Civil War & Revolution A civil war is a war in which combatants within the same culture, society or nationality fight against each other for the control of political power. Some civil wars are categorized as a revolution when major societal restructuring and emphasizing of alternative dominant values is a possible outcome of the conflict.

    5. APPEASEMENT Appeasement means give the enemy whatever they demand in the belief that it will keep the peace. It is based on the view that peace is worth more than anything else. So, it leads to a policy of “peace at all costs.”

    6. DETERRENCE Deterrence is about how to get an opponent to NOT do something due to some threatened consequence for doing it, or vice versa. That is, influencing choices of another by affecting expectations of how his or her adversary will behave. As such, in the world of international affairs, deterrence is NOT about the effective application of force, but instead about the exploitation of “potential force.” Deterrence strategies are often meant to create common ground for disputants—the avoidance of worse outcomes for both. That is, to get to a mutually advantageous outcome. 6

    7. Principles of Effective Deterrence • Clear Communication of threat. • Threat must be credible. • Adversary must be rational. • A face-saving “way out” of suffering the threat must be made available to adversary. • Threat must not include possibility of all-out retaliation or devastation. • Credible assurances given to adversary of no surprise first strike. • Convince adversaries that it is in their own best interest to comply with demand. 7

    8. An Example of Successful Deterrence Iraq admitted to UN officials that it was prepared to use deadly toxins and bacteria against US and allied forces during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. In December 1990 Saddam Hussein loaded 3 types of biological agents into 200 missile warheads and bombs that were then distributed to air bases and missile sites. They decided not to use them when the US made it clear, in an unambiguous & strongly worded assertion on Jan. 9, 1991, that any use of unconventional warfare would provoke a “devastating response.” The Iraqis interpreted this as a nuclear threat and it forced them to stand down from their planned biological attack.

    9. The Court of International Justice has Undermined Nuclear Deterrence The Court of International Justice has issued rulings asserting that a nation cannot retaliate by targeting civilian areas with a nuclear response, even if the retaliation is a response to a nuclear attack or a deliberate attack on civilians. In fact, US threats of nuclear retaliation against Iraq helped uphold the UN Charter and various Human Rights Accords -- by deterring CBRN attacks. To be effective, a threat has to be credible.

    10. Why Deterrence Fails • Communication breakdown (mistranslation?). • Threat is not credible • Adversary is not rational. • A face-saving “way out” of suffering the threat is not made available to adversary. • Threat was all-out retaliation or devastation. • No credible assurances given to adversary of no surprise first strike. • It is not made in the adversary’s interest to comply with demands or for them to rely on diplomacy. 10

    11. What does it Mean to be Rational? The first version of rationality meant that a person seeks to maximize utility. In other words, it is cost-benefit (or risk-benefit) analysis, where a rational act is one where the benefit of the action outweighs its costs. Some options provide more benefit (a greater positive value) than others. 11

    12. Consider “how” you choose dessert at a cafeteria. How do you go about it?

    13. UTILITY THEORY John von Neumann’s contribution to economics and game theory (along with his “Minimax Theorem”). Utility theory asserts that people, when faced with a decision, rank the options in the order from most favored to least favored…and presumably choose the most favored (the one that provides them with the greatest utility). 13

    14. Maximizing “Utility” versus Minimizing “Loss” Which is more rational – maximizing utility or minimizing loss? That is, is it better to reach for the maximum payoff or to minimize potential loss? Which one is more realistic of what people do? If it is minimizing loss, then people conform to the “Minimax Theorem” (i.e., minimize maximum regret). It became the new definition of rationality.

    15. “Expected Utility” versus “Raw” Utility Expected utility takes into account the likelihood (probability) of success when determining the rationality of an act or decision. Expected utility is obtained by multiplying the raw utility by the probability of success in getting that (raw) utility. The result is the “expected utility” to be derived from the act.

    16. An Example of how Expected Utility can effect the outcome (or one’s behavior) RAW UTILITY: Ralph Nader 10 units of utility John Kerry: 7 units of utility George W. Bush: 2 units of utility. EXPECTED UTILITY: Ralph Nader: has a .05 probability of winning (so 10 x .05 = 0.5). John Kerry: has a .45 chance of winning (so 7 * .45 = 3.15). George W. Bush has a .45 chance of winning (so 2 * .45 = 0.9). “Expected” utility changed the vote from Nader to Kerry for this voter.

    17. Rational Choice + Utility Theory = Game Theory Rationality (Rational Choice) and Utility Theory provides the foundation for an approach to doing analysis called “Game Theory.” Much of American foreign policy, especially the war on terror, is based on assumptions of rationality.

    18. GAME THEORY Game Theory is a branch of mathematics (applied mathematics). It is a way of using math to study social situations. Many psychologists call game theory, “The Theory of Social Situations.”

    19. GAME THEORY 1. Participants are treated as “Players” who act simultaneously or take turns. 2. There is a benefit (payoff or prize) measured in utility, which may be different for each player. 3. There may be costs (and usually are) for playing “game”. 4. There may be risks (and usually are). 5. Assumes players are rational; that is, seek to maximize “expected” benefit (or minimize loss). 19

    20. The “Prisoner’s Dilemma” PLAYER A Silent Confess P L A Y E R B Silent Confess

    21. An Example of a Prisoner’s Dilemma UNITED STATES Diplomacy Attack (Retaliate) T E R R O R I S T Peace Attack

    22. US Foreign Policy: 1787 - Present US policymakers have mostly been rational for our entire history and our foreign policy has generally been based on the rational choice approach. That is, we try to deter our enemies by increasing the risk and cost to them for terrorism or waging war with us, assuming that our enemies are rational. For 200 years they generally were, but in the last 3 decades or so we have made enemies that are not rational (or, alternatively, what we think is the benefit they derive from violence is not the benefit that they actually derive). What kind of utility are our enemies seeking?

    23. What if war is what the enemy wants? Traditional deterrence will not work if conflict is what the enemy wants. If dealing with an apocalyptic group seeking a showdown between good and evil, whose members not only do not fear death but seek it as martyrdom, then traditional deterrence theory will not work. To get deterrence back on track, the threatened penalty must be in units of something they care about. Can Al-Qaeda even be deterred? 23

    24. Whose Rules Shall Prevail? We cannot make irrational enemies rational. That is like sitting down with them and inviting them to play a game, but according to our rules. Our rules benefit us, and our terrorist enemies know it, so they do not want to play by our rules (i.e., Geneva Convention, etc.). They would lose in a straight-up military confrontation limited by international rules of warfare. Our enemies play by rules that favor them: irregular warfare and terrorism, plus they are motivated not by political gain, but by destroying their evil enemies, even if it costs them everything. 24

    25. So, How do we deter them? Having irrational enemies does not rule out the military means of counter-terrorism. It does mean, though, that we will have to track the terrorists down and kill them. This is perhaps the only policy that will work against the new modern type of (religious motivated) terrorists. They are not afraid of being treated as criminals (or even as POWs) because of our procedural safeguards and rights. They are not afraid of death. But, killing them does mean that they will not do terrorism any more. 25

    26. “The Calculus of Terrorism” R = P B – C + D “R” is the terrorist’s reward for committing an act of terror. “P” is the probability of a successful mission. “B” is the set of tangible benefits to the terrorist. “C” is the cost paid by the terrorist. “D” is the terrorist’s psychic benefit derived from an act of terror. [This is the most critical factor for modern {religious motivated} terrorists]. 26

    27. The Dollar Auction A dollar being auctioned will go to the highest bidder. The second highest bidder does not get anything, but still has to pay his or her bid. No other bidders will pay. Are there such games in reality? How about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict? 27

    28. HOW GAME THEORY EXPLAINS THE MIDDLE EAST Game Theory offers a logical explanation for why each party to the Middle East conflict is acting the way it is, and how their "payoff grids" relate. In essence, according to Game Theory assumptions, Israel, The USA, and the Arabs are each acting in their own self-interest (and for rational objectives). Given these assumptions, the present situation in the Middle East is a Prisoner’s Dilemma and the resulting continuation of violence is practically inevitable. 28

    29. The Middle East as a Prisoner’s Dilemma Unfortunately, one of the most common results from prisoner's dilemma games is to produce a worse (or possibly the worst) possible joint result for everyone, even though each participant to the conflict may be acting rationally on their own. That is what is happening in the Middle East: Each “player” to this game is ending up with a sub-optimal outcome. This is the result of them being rational, not irrational. The overall dynamic encourages anti-Israeli terror groups (and the Palestinians as a whole), and badly undermines Israel’s (and the USA’s) ability to apply deterrence and prevent further escalation.

    30. The Middle East “Game” PALESTINIANS Fight Negotiate I S R A E L Fight Negotiate Whether the players maximize utility or minimize loss, the outcome is the same (outcome A: both fight).

    31. The “Sums” of the outcomes.(Fight-Fight is Nash Equilibrium)

    32. Stuck in a Rut Israel prefers negotiation to fighting, and the Palestinians know this, so the Palestinians are more likely to choose to fight because if the Israelis choose diplomacy, the Palestinians gain +4; if the Israelis choose to fight, the Palestinians only lose -2 (rather than -4). Now the Israelis know the preference of Palestinians to fight, so their most rational choice is to fight too (and lose -2, but they would lose -4 if they choose negotiation, given the Palestinians are likely to fight). But every now and then, Israel offers a truce (negotiates) to break out of the rut.

    33. Individual Rationality Often Leads to a Collective Irrational (or a sub-optimal) Outcome In a classic Prisoner’s Dilemma situation, individual rationality by all players often leads to a collectively irrational (or at least a sub-optimal) outcome. Both Israel and the Palestinians are each acting rationally, but it leads to a collectively irrational (or at least a less-than-optimal outcome. This is why the Middle East conflict is so intractable, and why Palestinian groups want to fight and use terrorism. [They derive psychological utility. 33

    34. Tit-for-Tat Tit-for-Tat is a strategy for dealing with rivalry in an iterative (or repeat play) situation. It is when a player cooperates on the first move (i.e., negotiates), but then for each successive round does what the opponent did in the previous round. Israel is playing “Tit-for-Tat” while the Palestinians are almost always playing the strategy of “always defecting” from cooperation (i.e., they are always fighting). Sometimes the Palestinians negotiate for long periods and then attack as a way to gain advantage (i.e., maximize utility). 34

    35. Robert Axelrod’s Famous Contest Axelrod invited various social scientists to submit computer programs for a contest in which each entry would be matched against every other entry in the indefinitely repeated Prisoners' Dilemma. Points would be totaled after every round and the winner proclaimed after the final round. Contestants submitted 63 computer programs that implemented possible strategies of the game. For example, TIT-FOR-TAT was submitted by the psychologist, Anatole Rapoport. It cooperated on the 1st round and then for every following round did what the opponent did in the previous round. The GRIM strategy, which punishes any deviation from co-operation by switching permanently to defection, was submitted by the economist, James Friedman. And so on. TIT-FOR-TAT was the most successful strategy (i.e., earned the most points). 35

    36. A Few Examples of Possible Strategies Tit For Tat – Start with cooperation and then repeat opponent's last choice. Random – Flip a coin to determine choice. Always Cooperate. Always Defect. Suspicious Tit For Tat - As for Tit For Tat except begins by defecting. Naive Prober - Repeat opponent's last choice, but sometimes probe by defecting in lieu of co-operating. Remorseful Prober - Repeat opponent's last choice, but sometimes probe by defecting in lieu of co-operating. If the opponent defects in response to probing, show remorse by co-operating once. Naive Peace Maker - Repeat opponent's last choice, but sometimes make peace by co-operating in lieu of defecting. True Peace Maker - Co-operate unless opponent defects twice in a row, then defect once, but sometimes make peace by co-operating in lieu of defecting. Grudger (Co-operate, but only be a sucker once) - Co-operate until the opponent defects. Then always defect unforgivingly. 36

    37. The “Evolution” of Strategies Axelrod then simulated the effect of “evolution” operating on the 63 strategies using an updating rule which ensured that strategies that achieve a high payoff in one generation (i.e., round) are more numerous in the next (via replication). The fact that TIT-FOR-TAT was the most numerous of all the surviving programs at the end of the evolutionary simulation clinched the question for Axelrod, who then proceeded to propose TIT-FOR-TAT as a suitable paradigm for human co-operation in a very wide range of contexts. 37

    38. The Virtues of Tit-for-Tat In describing its virtues, Axelrod (The Evolution of Cooperation, 1984, p. 54) said: “What accounts for TIT-FOR-TAT's robust success is its combination of being nice, retaliatory, forgiving and clear. Its niceness prevents it from getting into unnecessary trouble. Its retaliation discourages the other side from persisting whenever defection is tried. Its forgiveness helps restore mutual co-operation. And its clarity makes it intelligible to the other player, thereby eliciting long-term co-operation.” 38

    39. Characteristics of an Effective Strategy (or Foreign Policy) By analysing the top-scoring strategies, Axelrod stated several conditions necessary for a strategy to be successful. 1. Nice: The most important condition is that the strategy must be "nice", that is, it will not defect before its opponent does. Almost all of the top-scoring strategies were nice; therefore a purely selfish strategy will not "cheat" on its opponent, for purely utilitarian reasons first. Nice guys finish first. 2. Retaliating: However, Axelrod contended, the successful strategy must not be a blind optimist. It must sometimes retaliate. An example of a non-retaliating strategy is Always Cooperate. This is a very bad choice, as "nasty" strategies will ruthlessly exploit such softies. 3. Forgiving: Another quality of successful strategies is that they must be forgiving. Though they will retaliate, they will once again fall back to cooperating if the opponent does not continue to play defects. This stops long runs of revenge and counter-revenge, maximizing points. 5. Clarity: Opponents must be able figure out from your decisions what you are seeking to accomplish so that they can devise a strategy of their own that will maximize their own utility. 4. Non-envious: The quality of being non-envious means not striving to score more than the opponent (impossible for a ‘nice’ strategy, i.e., a 'nice' strategy can never score more than the opponent). 39

    40. Tit-for-Tat Ruled for 20 Years Tit-for-Tat strategy held the throne as the most successful strategy in iterated prisoner’s dilemma games until 2004 when an alternative strategy was devised. It had some contestants engaging in “team” play.

    41. “Team-Play” beats Tit-for-Tat Although Tit-for-Tat is considered to be the most robust basic strategy, a team from Southampton University in England introduced a new strategy at the 20th-anniversary Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma competition, which proved to be more successful than Tit-for-Tat. The contest was designed to have individual contestants each playing for him or her self. The players from Southampton University, however, were playing as a team. This strategy relied on cooperation between programs to achieve the highest number of points for a single program. The University submitted 60 contestants (each submitting a program) to the competition, which were designed to recognize each other through a series of five to ten moves at the start. Once this recognition was made, one program would then always cooperate and the other would always defect, assuring the maximum number of points for the defector. If the program realized that it was playing a non-Southampton player, it would continuously defect in an attempt to minimize the score of the competing program. As a result, this strategy ended up taking the top three positions in the competition, as well as a number of positions towards the bottom.

    42. Israel is a “Naïve Peace Maker” Israel uses the strategy of the “Naive Peace Maker” – which means to repeat opponent's last choice, but sometimes cooperate to see if the opponent is willing to cooperate.

    43. The Palestians are “Remorseful Probers” Remorseful Prober - Repeat opponent's last choice, but sometimes probe by defecting (i.e., fight) in lieu of co-operating (i.e., negotiating). If the opponent defects (i.e., fights) in response to probing, then cooperate once.

    44. The US Payoff Matrixfor the Israel-Palestinian Conflict This is why the USA puts pressure on Israel to Negotiate, even when the Palestinians Fight: It is the best outcome for the USA. We prefer the bottom two cells when compared to the upper cells, respectively.

    45. U.S. Pressure on Israel US pressure on Israel to negotiate is not good for Israel because the Palestinians are given an incentive to fight because when they do so, and Israel does not, Palestinian payoff is greatest. President G. W. Bush, however, has backed off in pressuring Israel to end hostilities whenever Israel is attacked (at least in the Summer 2006 war)…which was a change in direction for US policy.

    46. The Payoff Matrix for Arabsfor the Israel-Palestinian Conflict This is why Iran and Syria encourage fighting, fund the Palestinian militias, and sanction the use of terrorism. The Arab states always do better when Palestinians fight, regardless of what Israel does.

    47. The Heart of the Middle East Problem The region’s Arab states are doing everything in their power to exacerbate the conflict and to keep the Palestinians fighting—and to keep the suicide bombings going. Meanwhile, their pressure (and UN and Europe’s pressure) on the US, in turn, makes the US pressure Israel to take the destructive path of negotiation, something that will never work as long as the Palestinians continue to fight. The Palestinians will fight so long as Israel does not. 47

    48. A Possible Way Out of the Entanglement It can be argued that the US should stop pressuring Israel to negotiate. This will make the Palestinians negotiate IN GOOD FAITH (a very important distinction from negotiating as a stalling tactic or as a strategic move). US pressure on Israel to negotiate encourages the Palestinians to keep fighting, so as to maximize their utility. In sum, the US should stop acting rationally in its interests, and instead move away from negotiation (as a strategic move on our part). It only encourages Palestinians to fight and Arabs to support fighting. George W. Bush, in the Summer 2006 Lebanon war, showed signs of doing this: he did NOT pressure Israel much, at least not until severe damage was done to the Hezbollah militia. Europe and the UN did the same, at first, but then reverted to their old ways of pressuring Israel by accusing it of war crimes, etc. 48

    49. The Singapore Airlines Example Singapore Airlines SQ 117, with 123 people on board, was hijacked on March 26 March 1991 (10 years before 9/11). There were 4 hijackers who were members of a Pakistani leftist group. They were armed with grenades and knives, and demanded the release of prisoners in Pakistan. After 8 hours of negotiations, the hijackers turned aggressive, issuing a five-minute deadline, and threatening to kill a hostage every 10 minutes if their demands were not met. 49

    50. The Outcome of the Singapore Airlines Example While the terrorists still had the impression that the government was still open to negotiation, the Singapore government gave the order to conduct a surprise raid.Within 30 seconds, all hijackers were shot dead and no passengers or crew got injured. The whole ordeal ended in less than 9 hours. 50