Less is more in the fight against terrorism

Sep 17, 2010

Terrorist networks are complex. Now, a mathematical analysis of their properties published this month in the International Journal of Networking and Virtual Organisations, suggests that the best way to fight them is to isolate the hubs within the network rather than trying to destroy the network as a whole through short-term battles.

According to Philip Vos Fellman a Lecturer at Suffolk University, Boston, and member of the New England Complex Systems Institute, USA, tools used to analyze complex systems can also be used to study terrorist networks with a view to undermining them.

Vos Fellman explains how terrorist networks are "typical of the structures encountered in the study of conflict, in that they possess multiple, irreducible levels of complexity and ambiguity."

"This complexity is compounded by the covert activities of terrorist networks where key elements may remain hidden for extended periods of time and the network itself is dynamic," adds Vos Fellman, an expert in mathematical modeling and strategy. The nature of a dynamic network is akin to the robust Internet but contrasts starkly with the structure of the armed forces or homeland security systems, which tend to be centralized and hierarchical.

Vos Fellman has used network analysis, agent-based simulation, and dynamic NK Boolean fitness landscapes to try and understand the complexities of terrorist networks. In particular, he has focused on how long-term operational and strategic planning might be undertaken so that tactics which appear to offer immediate impact are avoided if they cause little long-term damage to the terrorist network.

Vos Fellman's of terrorist networks suggest that isolation rather than removal could be the key to successfully defeating them.

"The results which these simulation and dynamical systems present suggest that quite literally sometimes less is more," says Vos Fellman, "and that operational objectives might be better directed at isolation rather than removal." He also points out that the simulations show that soft, or easy, targets of small cells within a network are, for the most part, not worth pursuing. Instead efforts should be focused on the hubs around which the network hinges. "If you are not focused on the top problems, then considerations of opportunity cost suggest that it may be better to do nothing rather than to waste valuable resources on exercises which are doomed to fail," he says.

Explore further: 'Moral victories' might spare you from losing again

More information: "The complexity of terrorist networks" in Int. J. Networking and Virtual Organisations, 2010, 8, 4-14

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Social networking for terrorists

May 04, 2009

A new approach to analyzing social networks, reported in the current issue of the International Journal of Services Sciences, could help homeland security find the covert connections between the people behind terrorist attack ...

Physics rules network dynamics

Dec 11, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- When it comes to the workings of the Web, the brain, or a social network, physics finds universal truths.

What's the semantic organization of human language?

Aug 11, 2009

A Chinese semantic network with semantic (argument structure) annotation was built and investigated for finding its global statistical properties. The results show that semantic network is also small-world and scale-free ...

Mathematical models key to tracking gossip, terrorists

Dec 09, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Thanks to the Internet and online social networks (OSNs) news and gossip now spread literally like wildfire -- uncontrollably and seemingly without any order. But according to one Ryerson ...

Recommended for you

Awarded a Pell Grant? Better double-check

2 hours ago

(AP)—Potentially tens of thousands of students awarded a Pell Grant or other need-based federal aid for the coming school year could find it taken away because of a mistake in filling out the form.

Ultra high definition TVs boost LG Display profit

9 hours ago

(AP)—LG Display Co. said profit for the April-June quarter more than doubled as a stronger won reduced the value of its foreign debt and the World Cup boosted demand for ultra-high-definition TVs.

Drugmaker GSK slashes annual profits forecast

9 hours ago

British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline on Wednesday slashed its 2014 profits forecast as second-quarter earnings sank on the back of weak US trade, adverse currency moves and a Chinese bribery probe.

Perthites wanted for study on the Aussie lingo

10 hours ago

We all know that Australians speak English differently from the way it's spoken in the UK or the US, and many of us are aware that Perth people have a slightly different version of the language from, say, Melbournians - but ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Arkaleus
not rated yet Sep 17, 2010
False assumptions:

"Terrorist Networks are complex," assumes there ARE terrorist networks. If there are known terrorist networks, who has found them? How do we know of them, without being able to find them?

The enemy is not external. The enemy is internal, and among our own kind. Misdirecting the attention of the people is like the magician who distracts the eyes to a non-event so he can arrange the true event in secret.

Just like "cyberterror", the enemy is only a computer simulation projected onto a hypothesis. This seems to be the modus operandi of the scheming factions, present a dramatic theory based on a simulation, and arrange real change as a result.

What is the different between reality, and simulation? Are we losing the ability to discern between them?
Skultch
not rated yet Sep 21, 2010
No, you're right. We haven't found them. I guess those bullets just magically appear hurtling towards our soldiers.

Either I and all my old Army Intel buddies are batshit crazy or the entire Top Secret military intelligence database is one big red herring.

Not worth one war, let alone two, but there is real threat here. Yes, our strategy was wrong on many levels, but I assure you, from first hand experience, they want us dead. Reason: The world is forcing them to change their way of life. They are 10x more conservative than 20 Rush Limbaughs.

It never fails. No matter the issue, someone, somewhere, will take it to the extreme, and no extremity will be left unsupported. Find the middle, friend, and you'll usually find reality.