In this setting, it is perhaps difficult or even impossible for many Westerners to conceptualize the various factors that might contribute to the decision of an individual Muslim to pursue suicide as a terrorism tactic, but game theory provides a useful framework in which this can be accomplished, and these issues are discussed further below.
Game Theory Overview.
Game theory was invented in order to satisfy a mathematical curiosity; from the outset, though, the problem was to identify a theoretical solution to the problems posed by uncertainty in games of chance (Schmidt 2002). In his chapter, "Bluff and reputation," Sorin (2002) reports that game theory is basically concerned with strategic behavioral interactions as opposed to individual maximization, typically found in decision theory: "Thus each participant attempts to maximize a function (his above-mentioned "result") of which he does not control all variables. This is certainly no maximum problem, but a peculiar and disconcerting mixture of several conflicting maximum problems. Every participant is guided by another principle and neither determines all variables which affect his interest" (Sorin 57).
Therefore, in order to analyze a situation in terms of a game, the first step involved would be to determine exactly the strategy spaces of the agents and, in particular, to specify the information upon which their respective actions can reasonably be said to be based (Sorin 2002). Furthermore, it must be remembered that the strategic interaction involved in a given setting is fundamentally different in the case of a game than in the case of individual decision making. According to Sorin, "This is well-known, at the behavior level, due to classical strategic game theory, but this also holds at the information level. Indeed, research has suggested that it is not necessary for a perturbation to be common knowledge for the reputation effect to appear, the fact that there is no common knowledge of the true situation is enough" (p. 70). Because every individual is unique, though, and the social, political and economic environment in which such decisions take place are dynamic, predicting the outcome of any given interplay between a given factor and the tendency of a person to resort to suicide as a terrorism tactic remain problematic, but these factors can nevertheless be expressed in terms of likelihood. According to this author, "This observation leads to a study of questions related to propagation of uncertainty where 'domino effects' occur: the lack of public knowledge on the moves leads each player to take into consideration a whole hierarchy of situations and decisions including a similar behavior on the part of his opponent" (Sorin 2002, p. 70).
These considerations are particularly relevant for the instant investigation concerning those factors that might compel one Muslim youth to become an active suicide bomber where another might avoid this life outcome altogether, depending on individual circumstances. In some regions of the Middle East, for example, "Young girls join boys at playing at suicide missions, and an eight-year-old girl may calmly sit at the dinner table and announce her intention to become a shaheeda. Six-year-old girls in class offer their reasons for wanting to become martyrs: 'to have everything in Paradise... To kill the Jewish... To live near our God... we never die' (Victor 2003, p. 185 quoted in Patkin at p. 80).
This author cites examples of other girls as young as 12 years old that are even more adamant in their views concerning the efficacy of suicide bombing as a career path: "They hope to become martyrs in order 'to follow my brother... In honor of Wafa Idris, who proved that women can do as much as men... To give back to my country everything I can... To free my people from occupation... there is no hope for peace'" (Victor 2003, pp. 188-189). The twisted nature of the entire enterprise becomes clear to objective observers, though, who can readily discern when young people are being duped by those who would pervert religious teachings for their own or their organizational objectives. According to Patkin:
'good' Palestinian girl may ask for an automatic rifle as a wedding gift,...
It sounded exciting and so many others had done it or tried that I thought, why not me?' (emphasis added) (Victor 2003, p. 261).
In this regard, then, it can be argued that such suicide bombers themselves are victims; however, they are not only victims of the terrorist organizations that recruit them for this purpose, but of the cultural conditioning that allows such practices to occur in the first place. According to Patkin (2003), Islamic extremists convince these young people that their ultimate life purpose lies in an untimely death and military commanders for Hamas and Islamic Jihad consider the human bomb, both male or female, as being inexpensive, easily targetable weapon systems that are uniquely capable of striking fear in their enemies: "The more training a soldier receives, the more skilled he is at avoiding death, whereas the opposite is true for a suicide bomber" (Patkin 2003, p. 80).
In fact, the enculturation of suicide bombing as a norm in terms of terrorism tactics means that young people can achieve more by killing themselves than they can hope to through a lifetime of futile struggle in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds. From an organizational perspective, terrorists organizations have much to gain from such tactics as well: "The only needed supplies are readily available and inexpensive: gunpowder, nails, a light switch, a battery, mercury, acetone, a wide belt, and transportation to the target site. Another cost-effective reason for scheduling suicide bombings is that they eliminate the need to arrange an escape plan-often the most challenging part of a terrorist operation" (Patkin 2003, p. 81). Indeed, the entire costs for a typical suicide bombing mission is approximately $150, not counting the bomber's life. Clearly, "The bombings are simultaneously simple and sophisticated, the ultimate poor person's smart bomb" (Patkin 2003, p. 81). Notwithstanding the deadly implications of suicide bombing as a terrorist tactic, though, it is possible to discern some of the more compelling factors that may compel one person to turn to suicide brigades as a viable career path while others would not consider it, and these issues are discussed further below.
Application of Game Theory to Islamic Suicide Bombers.
In any given situation wherein suicide could be reasonably selected as a viable (but final) career option for a given Muslim would relate to a number of factors that can be stipulated in advance if there is a preponderance of evidence to suggest that these factors have played a part in such decision-making processes for others in the past. The results of this analysis would then provide a basis for extrapolating how often an individual might elect to enlist in a suicide bomber brigade compared to other equally viable options. The analysis could also be used to predict how frequently an individual would make the suicide decision absent viable alternatives in terms of education and employment, as well as the degree of economic need of the individual, the extent to which the exists a profound belief in the religious rewards involved, and the availability of compensation from sympathetic Muslim organizations and states.
One method that can be used to help identify these factors and how they relate to the decision-making process for suicide as a terrorism tactic is the evolutionary stable strategy (ESS) model, which is one of the central concepts in evolutionary game theory (Maynard Smith and Price 1973; Maynard Smith 1974, 1982 cited in Villena & Villena 2004 at p. 585). Generally speaking, a strategy (phenotype) that is evolutionarily stable is considered to be robust to evolutionary-selection pressures in an exact sense: "The typical framework in which this concept is applied is one where individuals are repeatedly drawn at random from a large population to play a symmetric two-person game," the authors advise (Villena & Villena 2004, p. 585). At the beginning of the model, everyone is considered to be genetically or otherwise "programmed" to play a specific pure or mixed strategy of the game; thereafter, it is assumed…
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