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Evolutionary Models of Irregular Warfare

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Final rept. 5 Aug 2011-4 Aug 2012

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The objective of this research project was to conduct a preliminary study exploring the utility of evolutionary models of irregular warfare e.g. in Iraq and Afghanistan. The approach was to apply analytical tools developed in evolutionary biology to understand how insurgent and terrorist populations change and adapt over time. These tools have not been used before for this purpose. However, evolutionary models offer promising insights for irregular warfare because they focus explicitly on key processes that are essential to understand and predict how interacting populations in competition with each other grow, survive, adapt, and ultimately die out. A key output of the study has been to help establish the Natural Security Project, a collaboration among marine biologist Rafe Sagarin, former UN weapons inspector Terry Taylor, and the PI Prof Dominic Johnson. The project seeks to explore if and how we can derive insights from nature to help tackle problems of international security in the 21st century. So far, we have focused on the pressing problems of operational adaptation. However, our current and future work extends evolutionary principles to the level of grand strategy and international politics. This has given rise to some unexpected results for example, work from our group explored evolutionary lessons for when and how we should transmit signals to other actors, and the conditions under which actors that overestimate their capabilities may out-compete unbiased ones.

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  • Unconventional Warfare

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