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The Mathematics of Terrorism August 31-September 2, 2009, Santa Fe NM

Organizers: Aaron Clauset (Santa Fe Institute) and Brian Tivnan (MITRE)

Monday, August 31, 2009

Neil Johnson and Mike Spagat

A common ecology for human insurgency and terrorism?

We report various commonalities in the patterns of violence arising in human conflicts and in global terrorism (work of A. Clauset et al.). We propose a unified model which reproduces these commonalities, and explains conflict-specific variations quantitatively in terms of underlying rules-of-engagement. Our model treats each insurgent population as an ecology of dynamically evolving, self-organized groups following common decision-making processes. Our model seems consistent with several recent hypotheses concerning modern insurgency, is robust to many generalizations, and establishes a quantitative connection between human insurgency, global terrorism (A. Clauset et al.) and ecology. We discuss the implications of the model for scenario testing, and its potential ability to look 'behind the scenes' of global violence and current threats.