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Discrete Dynamics in Nature and Society
Volume 2006 (2006), Article ID 85653, 32 pages

A dynamical model of terrorism

1Departments of Civil Engineering, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, Mathematics, Systems Architecture Engineering, and Information and Operations Management, 430K Olin Hall, University of Southern California, Los Angeles 90089-1453, CA, USA
2Graduate School, College of Engineering, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley 94720, CA, USA
3Department of Economics, University of Bologna, Bologna 40125, Italy

Received 25 April 2006; Accepted 10 May 2006

Copyright © 2006 Firdaus Udwadia et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


This paper develops a dynamical model of terrorism. We consider the population in a given region as being made up of three primary components: terrorists, those susceptible to both terrorist and pacifist propaganda, and nonsusceptibles, or pacifists. The dynamical behavior of these three populations is studied using a model that incorporates the effects of both direct military/police intervention to reduce the terrorist population, and nonviolent, persuasive intervention to influence the susceptibles to become pacifists. The paper proposes a new paradigm for studying terrorism, and looks at the long-term dynamical evolution in time of these three population components when such interventions are carried out. Many important features—some intuitive, others not nearly so—of the nature of terrorism emerge from the dynamical model proposed, and they lead to several important policy implications for the management of terrorism. The different circumstances in which nonviolent intervention and/or military/police intervention may be beneficial, and the specific conditions under which each mode of intervention, or a combination of both, may be useful, are obtained. The novelty of the model presented herein is that it deals with the time evolution of terrorist activity. It appears to be one of the few models that can be tested, evaluated, and improved upon, through the use of actual field data.