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Lone-Wolf Terrorist Radicalization and the Prisoner's Dilemma: Ensuring Mutual Cooperation Between at-Risk Muslim Americans and Local Communities

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Technical Report

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey United States

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While scholars study the radicalization process that produces lone-wolf terrorists in America, news stories regularly report on Muslim Americans leaving their local communities to join terrorist organizations. Currently, radicalizing individuals to act as lone wolves is the most successful method of Islamist attack on the American homeland. A novel approach to analyzing radicalization is employment of the prisoners dilemma, which examines the motivations behind individual decision-making.The prisoners dilemma is used by game theorists and international-relations scholars to demonstrate how persons who might ordinarily be expected to cooperate may actually work against each other and defect from previous agreements or understandings. Because lone-wolf attacks will likely continue to pose the most frequent threat to the U.S. homeland, it is imperative to learn how potential homegrown terrorists can be encouraged to identify with their local communities rather than defect from the social bonds of church, school, neighborhood, and workplace. This thesis explores how the prisoners dilemma may reveal ways to discourage radicalism in at-risk Muslim Americans.

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