Field of Science

Do insurgents read Nature?

An interesting new paper in Nature explains how timing and casualties of insurgent attacks follow a power-law. [Synopsis.] This basically means that such wars are predictable to a certain extent.

But what would be the underlying factors that cause these patterns?
Johnson and his colleagues argue that the pattern arises because insurgent wars lack a coherent command network and operate more as a "soup of groups", in which cells form and disband when they sense danger, then reform in different sizes and composition. The timing of attacks, the authors say, is driven by competition between insurgent groups for media attention.
So the fact that they are media-whores makes them predictable? The study is not free from criticisms, but still it makes you wonder if insurgents read Nature. If they want to remain elusive, perhaps they should.

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