Scientists Find 'Law Of War' That Predicts Attacks

Scientists Find 'Law Of War' That Predicts Attacks
June 28th, 2008  
Team Infidel

Topic: Scientists Find 'Law Of War' That Predicts Attacks

Scientists Find 'Law Of War' That Predicts Attacks
London Daily Telegraph
June 28, 2008 By Roger Highfield, Science Editor
Scientists believe they may have glimpsed a "law of war" that can be used to predict the likelihood of attacks in modern conflicts, from conventional battles to global terrorism.
The European Consortium For Mathematics in Industry was told today that an international team has developed a physics-based theory describing the dynamics of insurgent group formation and attacks, which neatly explains the universal patterns observed in all modern wars and terrorism.
The team is advising the United Nations, the Pentagon and Iraq.
"Regardless of the origins and locations of modern conflicts, the insurgent groups in each case are operating in the same way. In short, it is effectively the same enemy on all fronts," said Prof Neil Johnson, of the University of Miami, who did work with Prof Mike Spagat of Royal Holloway College, University of London, Dr Sean Gourley, University of Oxford and colleagues in China and Columbia.
The team told the meeting in University College London how it has taken advantage of the rise in amount of information available on conflicts, by filtering hundreds of online news sources and Government reports, and an emerging field, called complexity science.
"We use advanced computer simulations and mathematical models to create a plausible microscopic mechanism to explain the collective behaviour observed in a wide range of human conflict situations - from ongoing insurgent wars and terrorism, through to street-gangs and even online games," said Dr Gourley.
Most remarkable, "or the case of modern insurgent conflicts, our results are in close agreement with observed casualty data."
"What we found was really quite startling," said Prof Johnson. "Although wars are the antithesis of an ordered system, the datapoints for each war fell neatly on to a straight line."
The line meant they obeyed what scientists call a power law. The "power laws" describe mathematical relationships between the frequency of large and small events.
This finding is remarkable given the different conditions, locations and durations of these separate wars. For example, the Iraq war is being fought in the desert and cities and is fairly recent, while the twenty-year old Colombian war is being fought in mountainous jungle regions against a back-drop of drug-trafficking and Mafia activity.
This came as a shock, said the team, since the last thing one would expect to find within the chaos of a warzone are mathematical patterns.
Wars are supposed to be chaotic places with random attacks, disorder and violence, yet patterns do exist and these patterns are the same for different wars all around the world from Sierra Leone to Iraq, Colombia and Afghanistan.
"This power-law finding also has some very important practical implications in terms of military planning. It means there is no typical size of event - unlike the bell-curve for population heights, for example, which is centred around an average height," said Prof Johnson.
"Deadly events with many casualties will occur-rarely, but they will occur. This is again unlike the case of heights, where the chances that someone will be taller than ten feet are truly negligible."
"Because it is a power-law distribution we know that conflicts are dominated by small attacks usually killing one or two people, but unlike what would be expected from a normal distribution, attacks that kill 100+ people will occur with a relatively high frequency," added Dr Gourley.
"We can use the power-law distribution to accurately predict the likelihood of different sized attacks occurring on any given day. This is useful for military planning and allocating resources to hospitals.
"However the strength of the approach goes beyond simple statistics. By using the power-law distribution we can understand how insurgent cells form and break apart and how the insurgency as a whole is structured.
"Then by tracking the slope of the power-law, we can see in real-time how the structure of the insurgency changes in response to external actions such as the surge in Iraq."
In particular, it suggests that the dynamics of insurgent group formation are the same across all arenas-from the jungles of Colombia through to the deserts of Iraq, and including the entire world stage of global terrorism.
In short, the way in which modern wars and terrorism are being waged has less to do with geography or ideology, and more to do with the day-to-day mechanics of human insurgency- it is simply the way in which insurgent groups of human beings fight when faced with a much stronger, but more rigid, opponent.
As a consequence of this, it would seem that unless the stronger, but more rigid, opponent can change its tactics, the same statistical patterns of casualties will be repeated indefinitely into the future.
"The fact that the power-law distribution seems to be constant across all long-term modern wars suggests that the insurgencies have evolved to find an ideal solution to the problem of how to fight a stronger force.
"Unless this structure is changed then the cycle of violence in places like Iraq will continue," said Dr Gourley." We have used this analysis to advise the Pentagon, the Iraqi government and the United Nations."

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