General Counterterrorism: A Capstone Research Report

Date: Feb 4, 2019

General Counterterrorism

Part One

  • Identify a key issue and explain the supporting research question in Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Insurgency at large and terrorism in particular affect the society’s daily life and its long-term development in a complex of controversial manner. Despite the apparently disastrous backlash accruing to any systemic deviance or agency failure, agents as well as stakeholders tend to manipulate the common and shared means in a rent-seeking effort. For instance, states and governments may posit insurgent groups as illegitimate combatants not subject to routine legal treatment along the lines of human rights or civil liberties, while making heavy use of similar means, as diverse as media propaganda or electronic screening and targeted killing, to name a few. By the same token, former state agents or otherwise less formally affiliated insiders may reveal well-documented evidence of state abuse or sponsorship in insurgency episodes abroad (whether it be the financing of Taliban or tapping top official correspondence), while capitalizing on media coverage much the way political minorities do. The official governmental incumbents may in turn abuse the terrorist agenda by treating or exposing such precedents as major threat to national security or geopolitical reputation, which qualifies as subversion for all practical purposes. It remains to be seen just how effective the common-law setup drawing upon precedence and historic use proves in addressing the novel challenges and propagation that has not been embedded in prior rulings.

Regardless of whether these shocks stem from technology or media, all of the above stylized instances involve some critical social costs or social capital, which can further be leveraged or manipulated in a variety of ways by insurgents and incumbents alike. The key issue is, therefore, to trace what is known as force multipliers (White, 2009, pp. 97-115) as well as propagation mechanisms with an eye towards how they merge the terrorism and socioeconomic agendas. More specifically, it is important to capture interrelationships between the so-called confidence or sentiment indices versus the levels of objective terrorist threats and the perceived efficacy of counterinsurgency action being imputed.

Part Two

  • State one research hypothesis that may answer the research question

A two-level research hypothesis is maintained, with respect to the direct covariance within each standalone model and an allowance for spurious correspondence between the alternate indices as one flipside of bypassing multicollinearity. In essence, two regressions are used, such as Consumer Confidence Index (CCI) and Consumer Sentiment Index on a set of common explanatory variables: insurgency level and change therein, as well as counterinsurgency dynamics. In fact, the two are related, albeit not necessarily in a linear manner. Rather, the paper effectively arrives at lags as differences, and counterterrorism as improving proportion of non-lethal outcomes. The paper draws upon monthly data breakdown for the consumer indices and terrorism reports, which should provide for comparability while boosting the degrees of freedom. On the other hand, the number of explanatory variables might have to be reduced for lack of recent data or in response to the over-identification hazard. Given that insurgency data are available from the US HLS Country Reports (statistical annex section) as global aggregates whereas CFI updates are not, the current report might has to either resort to a single, CSI-based time-series model, or run a proportions t-test and CHI-squared test between the two indices on a cross-sectional basis.

The null hypotheses pertain to checking whether the coefficient values in the core models and the proportions gap in the supportive cross-sectional test are statistically zero.

Part Three

  • Establish research variables for analysis and subsequent confirmation or refutation of the research hypothesis

In any event, the research model underlying the regression looks as follows: (-) (+) with the expected or prior coefficient signs as indicated in the brackets. The null hypothesis to be refuted would suggest statistically insignificant coefficient values (individual t-tests) and/or F-insignificance for the model on the whole or F-significance despite inefficiency due to multicollinearity or heteroscedasticity in the CCI observations.

The t-test (point estimate) could be defined in proportions terms for the cross-section test as follows: with p capturing the share of either in an aggregate and N’s marking the sample sizes. The null hypothesis is the gap’s insignificance, as portrayed in a low value for t-statistic. A more complete interval estimate could obtain following a chi-squared distribution, in an approximated form building on squared proportions gaps. In fact, it is necessary to insist on proportions, as a kind of share weights for individual index values within an aggregate or sample, for the latter to be treated as a complete set, or a representative sample. The statistics can be defined as follows: to be checked against the respective chi-squared as per a particular significance level (confidence interval) and N-1 degrees of freedom.

In our framework, CI is represented in CSI, Ins is constructed as Total Attacks, and Counter computed as the proportion of non-lethal incidents, or image12.png, with the Total Killed category comprising civilian casualties on par with the military KIA, and Kidnapped containing those kept hostage.

The more full-fledged setting would, however, account for one other insurgency category adding up the adverse figures, and the counterinsurgency would invoke upon the dynamics in the non-lethal ratio. The null hypotheses would have to be adjusted appropriately. On second thoughts, that need does not affect the degrees of freedom in the inherently bivariate chi-squared test being attempted.

Part Four

  • Present results of research informing the proposed research variables. This research must be supported by at least eight legitimate academic resources

To begin with, a not on the data construct sources would be due. Mention was made of insurgency and counterinsurgency statistics being available at the US Department of Homeland Security as well as Department of State Bureau for Counterterrorism websites. The monthly global and country-level reports on terrorist attacks measure up to the monthly index reports for CCI and CSI.

The Consumer Confidence Index is composed by the Conference Board, an independent US-based economic think tank, and centers around five broad categories measuring optimism as to the ongoing situation and the near future (with weights distributed as 40% and 60% between the present and the expectations). In a well-defined sense, this composite in its normalized form is related to marginal propensity to consume (MPC), which enters the investment multiplier and GDP growth as 1/(1-MPC). However, it would appear that growth in the savings rate as the residual metric need not be symptomatic of any decay being underway. Rather, that could refer to an ongoing increase in disposable income of wealth. In fact, the duality implied acts to justify the distributed sharing between ongoing fundamentals and expected dynamics. However, it may come at odds with the inherently backwards-looking financial valuation driving the stock market indices. Moreover, CCI and CSI may have little to do with ‘rational’ expectations, if only because risk aversion does not count as irrationality or bounded rationality per se.

The Consumer Sentiment Index is maintained jointly by the University of Michigan and Thomson Reuters, with the monthly aggregates being defined across a total of 50 criteria pertaining to short-term and longer-term gauging more than it does to current situation. In that respect, the two indices complement one another while suggesting a material substitutive overlap.

Our literature review comes in two sections that might be as polar as they are mutually reinforcing. With some early evidence on hand, some critical findings could carry through to the broader agenda and a wider context capturing some trends looming large. In particular, major incidents of force multipliers are taken into consideration being deployed in dual-use settings with technology and media coverage largely intertwined.

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Black (2004) argues that force multipliers act to magnify the destructive power without any adequate resource input. By and large, terrorists allegedly target symbolic objects, with victims being a kind of externality in excess of an important message addressing some audience. However, in this light, the very notion of targeting could be extended to at least capture the policy counterpart. In addition, multipliers such as media coverage and the present-day social networks like Facebook could be viewed as augmenting the bargaining power and reputational outcomes, with minority groups in politics and civilian unrests seeking to posit themselves as more representative. It would appear to us, the very notion of endemic terrorism (by design or group-specific) could be rethought with an eye towards endogenizing terror in terms of in-group and inter-network stigmatization short of excommunication threats. Insofar as individuals prove gregarious enough to submit to identifying the reference and the target network, and excessively sensitive on the downside (e.g. to the lower layers of Maslow hierarchy of needs such as safety and recognition), they may take at face values the innuendos of not being Muslim enough (Arab springs) or democrat enough (Eastern-European colored revolts) in case of shirking on support or sympathy.

Along the same digital age lines, Danitz and Strobel (1999) present some early caution on a possibility of cyber attacks aimed at political ends. The latter-day hype surrounding The Mask, a conjectured cyber-clique generating particularly deadly malware, could itself be prone to fallacy, though, with reference to misguided disclosure as suggested in the very name. For that matter, CSIS evidence dating as far back as 2004, suggested the National Security Agency was exposed from the outset to what is come to be known as logical bombs, DDoS attacks, and crackdowns, which appears to have lent some ethical grounds for a pro-active stance in hindsight. The more striking development pertains to large-scale and popular networks garnering willingness to disclose personal information while paying for that, with micromarketing surveys increasingly turning into surveillance mechanisms picking some buy-in along the lines of safety/anonymity tradeoff as in banking. Wilkinson (1997) makes an early case for all the involved parties to conflict cashing in on the media imagery of biased defamation and blood-shed scale of coverage. What that apparently suggests is a sheer vicious circle of win-win rent-seeking, with the bargaining agents on both ends acting to compromise their principals best interests while engaging in a downward spiral of controlled escalation in a manner not quite captured in game-theoretic exposition. The mounting social cost and downgraded expectations fail to be internalized by those ushering in the adverse externality, in the first place.

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Nacos (2000) seconds, in just how those insurgent groups spotlight their demands and concerns as legitimate grounds behind their cause, with victory faring as a major tool of further lending relevance as well as license to conflict-theoretic deviance upon dissipation of bargaining means. A defeat, according to Wolfsfeld (2001), has to do with the way the setting is covered in the media. Although the study does discern the important dual asymmetry in the way own atrocities are downplayed and casualties over-reported, as well as in how peace and negotiations fare overlooked relative to standoff and brinkmanship, still it seems to be detracting from the way civil unrests are increasingly designed along similar lines, or how the seemingly non-authoritarian societies get trapped in skewed online trolling and flash mob herding (Krasnoboka, 2002). Semati (2002) sheds some further support to the biased portrayal in the media benefitting the polar parties, with the nowadays-hot Youtube fakes possibly crowding out some of the old-hat movie forgery. Slisli (2000) finds the bulk of the asymmetry stemming from oversimplification. And accepting anything like that appears closer to the bounded rationality agenda than pessimism per se.

Benmelech, Berrebi, and Klor (2010) find that deteriorating employment enables terrorist entities to recruit more highly educated individuals, which again poses the issue of rationality and age-related preferences.

One other crucially controversial facet pertains to the ironic mismatch between people heeding to short-run developments and emotive threats, whereas it is the credible and incentives-compatible signaling and longer-haul or cumulative effects that amounts to permanent shifts and impacts rational decision making. That said, it appears awkward gauging the costs and benefits of any major counterinsurgency assault, given the ill-defined success criteria, let alone the inconclusive stance as to whether war waging can be judged or sanctioned based on bookkeeping hallmarks alone. Lakdawalla and Talley (2006) propose that, even though a game-theoretic equilibrium may well exist, one is unlikely to fit into the existing legal provisions and mechanisms, which appears to lend merit to our previous caution on the legitimacy controversy.

Part Five

  • Analyze the research question and supporting hypothesis

In order to leverage the degrees of freedom with, but scanty data on hand, as well as to allow for interactive or composite variable while bypassing the levels compatibility issue, the two dimensions are merged by multiplying the total attacks times the lethal proportion as a qualitative adjustment, to arrive at, with the negative prior sign in the interactive coefficient. The intercept and the residual supposedly collapse the rest of the possibly omitted causes, stationary and oscillatory. That does not affect the second H0, either. Furthermore, for the lack of low-cost global data, the US sentiment and confidence index datasets are used.

With only a handful of data on hand, it should come as little surprise in terms of above-average R-squared or efficiency in inference. On margin, however, insignificance in both the coefficients and the model at large with about 90% confidence is refuted. Likewise, the cross-sectional proportions tests suggest that cross-sample similarity cannot be disputed. In fact, the fit is very close along both the t-stat and chi-squared lines. The more in-depth implication behind the two indices being so co-integrated could be that, the respondents place about 50% relevance on the near future, with the current situation and the long run gaining about 25% each. That also points out that it is wise not to aggregate two indices or otherwise study them simultaneously, or at any rate it have bypassed the multicollinearity issue. The resultant forecast could therefore be as follows: with the signs as expected.

Part Six

  • Construct a conclusion of research (results and answer of the research)

Our study has detected some critical overlap between the counterinsurgency and the socioeconomic agendas with an eye on some tectonic shifts looming large. A set of related force multipliers has been addressed in line with surmised counterparts in macroeconomic policy. In particular, a very specific inter-temporal distribution for the marginal propensity to consume and invest has been obtained, along with an operational forecasting tool bridging the gap between these distributions and the dynamics of insurgency versus counterinsurgency. The summary statistics are presented in the table below, with further detail placed in the Appendix.


Regression statistics
R multiple .49267171
R-square .242725414
SD 3.555435495
Observations 12
  df SS MS F significance of F
Regression 1 40.51795108 40.51795108 3.2052497 .10367288
Residual 10 126.4112156 12.64112156    
Total 11 166.9291667      


  Coefficient value SD t-stat p-value
Intercept 87.0094679 6.073870467 14.32520966 5.43694E-08
Interaction variable -0.057839375 .032306705 -1.790321116 .10367288


2012 Dec Nov Oct Sept Aug Jul Jun May Apr Mar Feb Jan
Total Attacks 456 570 614 520 615 571 591 684 579 515 461 595
Interactive (quality-adjusted) 162.38 166.5 220.6 165.2 230.5 199.2 174.7 170.6 199.5 145.2 144.5 244.8
Lethal Outcomes (proportion) 0.36 0.29 0.36 0.32 0.37 0.35 0.30 0.25 0.34 0.28 0.31 0.41
Non-Lethal Outcomes (proportion) 0.64 0.71 0.64 0.68 0.63 0.65 0.70 0.75 0.66 0.72 0.69 0.59
total killed 605 794 986 877 953 1010 1189 873 843 789 801 1378
total wounded 1042 1878 1656 1853 1498 1817 2580 2523 1416 1931 1620 1838
kidnapped/hostage 52 46 102 31 92 68 254 104 188 78 135 133
CCI 64.6 71.5 73.1 70.3 61.3 65.4 62.7 64.4 68.7 69.5 71.6 61.5
CSI 82.7 82.6 78.3 74.3 72.3 73.2 79.3 76.4 76.2 75.3 75 69.9
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