Academic journal article International Social Science Review

The United States and Islmaic Radicals: Conflict Unending?

Academic journal article International Social Science Review

The United States and Islmaic Radicals: Conflict Unending?

Article excerpt


The events of September 11, 2001 shook the foundations of the world's only superpower. Approximately 3,000 lives were lost in the tragic attacks on American soil. (1) The United States quickly determined that the radical Islamic group al Qaeda bore responsibility for the horrendous act. Since then, President George W. Bush has vowed to fight terrorism until the threat to the U.S. is completely eradicated. Adopting a proactive policy, the U.S. attacked the al Qaeda base in Afghanistan in October 2001, forcing the Taliban regime that harbored al Qaeda from power. Despite an outright victory in the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda, Afghanistan remains unstable and al Qaeda continues to operate around the world. The situation is not much different in Iraq where U.S. military force has toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein. Successful al Qaeda terrorist attacks around the world following American military action in both Afghanistan and Iraq highlight the difficulty of devising a strategy to combat even one radical Islamic group, let alone eradicating the threat from all groups. (2)

As military operations against both al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan and elements of Saddam Hussein's late regime in Iraq continues, and speculation concerning an expansion of America's current war against terrorism increases, the world hopes that the end to this campaign will bring long-lasting peace. Application of the concept of Game Theory to the conduct of the war on terrorism, however, indicates that one should not be optimistic about future prospects for peace between the U.S. and radical Islamic groups.

Game Theory

Unlike games that one observes in the sporting world, "games of theory" are interactive exercises that require one to think strategically. (3) A "game" is a competitive situation where opposing players try to make moves according to particular strategies that promise to yield the best "payoffs" for them. A fundamental premise of a game is that a single player cannot dictate the outcome. The strategies of all the players involved in the game determine the outcome. "Game Theory" is thus a study of decision-making in a situation where there is either a combination of conflict and cooperation or total conflict between the players. (4)

A "game" can consist of two or more players. For the purpose of this discussion, two clearly defined players will be used, the U.S. and radical Islamic groups, both of whom are willing to resort to violence as a means of achieving their objectives.

According to the tenets of Game Theory, there are two major types of games: sequential and simultaneous. In a sequential game, one finds a strict order of play; one player makes a move and the other has a chance to study it before reacting. (5) This creates a situation where one player makes a move in consideration of future consequences. (6) A sequential game that continues over several plays is known as an iterated game. In this particular game, there can be evolution of cooperation

between the players, as, over time, they realize the possibility of a mutually beneficial strategy. (7) A simultaneous game, on the other hand, is one in which both players make decisions that are implemented at the same time and are independent of the other player's actions. The knowledge of any previously employed strategy of the opponent is not available in this situation. As a consequence. both players have to base their moves on what they think the other player is likely to do. (8) In this discussion, the "game" is sequential. The U.S. has complete knowledge of a move made by radical Islamic groups and takes that into account before making a decision. Similarly, a U.S. move towards radical Islamic groups is not covert and can be studied by the radicals before they take any further action.

The games structured in Game Theory can also be divided into two categories based on the final outcome: zero-sum and non-zero sum games. …

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