Governments, civilians, and the evolution of insurgency: Modeling the early dynamics of insurgencies

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This paper models the early dynamics of insurgency using an agent-based computer simulation of civilians, insurgents, and soldiers. In the simulation, insurgents choose to attack government forces, which then strike back. Such government counterattacks may result in the capture or killing of insurgents, may make nearby civilians afraid to become insurgents, but may also increase the anger of surrounding civilians if there is significant collateral damage. If civilians become angry enough, they become new insurgents. I simulate the dynamics of these interactions, focusing on the effectiveness of government forces at capturing insurgents vs. their accuracy in avoiding collateral damage. The simulations suggest that accuracy (avoidance of collateral damage) is more important for the long-term defeat of insurgency than is effectiveness at capturing insurgents in any given counterattack. There also may be a critical 'tipping point' for accuracy below which the length of insurgencies increases dramatically. The dynamics of how insurgencies grow or decline in response to various combinations of government accuracy and effectiveness illustrate the tradeoffs faced by governments in dealing with the early stages of an insurgency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • General Social Sciences


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