Non-disruptive tactics of suppression are superior in countering terrorism, insurgency, and financial panics.
Suppressing damaging aggregate behaviors such as insurgency, terrorism, and financial panics are important tasks of the state. Each outcome of these aggregate behaviors is an emergent property of a system in which each individual's action depends on a subset of others' actions, given by each individual's network of interactions. Yet there are few explicit comparisons of strategies for suppression, and none that fully incorporate the interdependence of individual behavior.
Methods and findings
Here I show that suppression tactics that do not require the removal of individuals from networks of interactions are nearly always more effective than those that do. I find using simulation analysis of a general model of interdependent behavior that the degree to which such less disruptive suppression tactics are superior to more disruptive ones increases in the propensity of individuals to engage in the behavior in question.
Thus, hearts-and-minds approaches are generally more effective than force in counterterrorism and counterinsurgency, and partial insurance is usually a better tactic than gag rules in quelling financial panics. Differences between suppression tactics are greater when individual incentives to support terrorist or insurgent groups, or susceptibilities to financial panic, are higher. These conclusions have utility for policy-makers seeking to end bloody conflicts and prevent financial panics. As the model also applies to mass protest, its conclusions provide insight as well into the likely effects of different suppression strategies undertaken by authoritarian regimes seeking to hold on to power in the face of mass movements seeking to end them.
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