Rational atrocities and state formation: A game theoretic approach to the case of ISIS


  • Sebastian Ille Lebanese American University
  • Dina Mansour Lebanese American University




Islamic State, ISIS, conflict, atrocities, evolutionary game theory


Since Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced in April 2013 the formation of the new Islamic polity, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), it has slowly become the epitome of terror. Certain acts of violence and atrocities committed by ISIS create the impression that it is acting out of blind, destructive religious fanaticism. In contrast, this article argues that this perception is but media-driven speculation. Instead of being religious zealots, ordering the purposeless killing of infidels, ISIS’ actions are governed by a strong rationale and a clear aim, namely the creation of a state, moreover one that extends beyond the traditional constitutive elements of statehood. In particular, ISIS’ rationality serves the purpose of consolidating an Islamic State in the Middle Eastern region, and beyond, under a Caliphate with a claim to universal governance and jurisdiction. This article illustrates the mechanisms which ISIS uses to achieve its aim of establishing an extended state, and it elaborates on the impact of actions and policies against ISIS on the basis of an evolutionary game theoretic model. [JEL codes: C73, D74, F51]


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How to Cite

Ille, S., & Mansour, D. (2015). Rational atrocities and state formation: A game theoretic approach to the case of ISIS. The Economics of Peace and Security Journal, 10(2). https://doi.org/10.15355/epsj.10.2.21




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