Category Archives: War on Terror

Incentives matter, terrorism edition

JIEDDO is doing some really cool stuff with anti-IED technology, but it seems more often than not it’s just a rather expensive, low-effectiveness R&D program.

“We’re not going to solve the IED problem inside Afghanistan,” a senior U.S. military official told ABC News last week. “If we don’t go after the supply, we’re playing defense.”

That’s exactly what JIEDDO’s looking to do. The agency’s new call for research, first spotted by InsideDefense.com, asks for “additives and methods to disrupt or discourage [bomb] manufacturing from fertilizer.”

via Pentagon Looks to Sabotage Pakistan’s Bomb Supply | Danger Room | Wired.com.

That being said, this is probably closer to an ideal strategy; I’m reminded of this paper exploring costs of suicide bombers. We think a lot about the intent or motivations of terrorists, but not as much about what rationality means for them. There are costs born by organizations or individuals, and if we can devise some method of increasing that cost, we’re better off. So far, JIEDDO has been a very pricey game of Whack-a-Mole, but if the focus shifts to an offensive strategy that might change.

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