McNair/Gateway Scholars Program USC

Joella' Ann McKenzie

Major and Classification

International Relations

Faculty Mentor

  • Todd Sandler, Ph.D.


  • International Relations

McNair Project

"Increasing Cooperation in Counterterrorism Using Game Theoretic Analysis"

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the international community has spent tens of billions of dollars on the formation and implementation of counterterrorism policies. However, economic analysis has concluded that cooperation within the international community is an integral part of the success of counterterrorist efforts. This collective action has been difficult to achieve. Policies requiring coordination are particularly difficult to achieve when many states are required to cooperate in order to make the policy successful and non-cooperators can undo the efforts of the cooperators. The goal of this study was to use game theory to analyze the probability of cooperation and non-cooperation when two nations are given the strategic choice to do so, considering the strategic choice of the opposing player. The study showed that each player will desire a lower adherence probability, or likeliness of cooperation, on the part of the opposing player. Incentives to cheat raised the adherence probability, making cooperation less likely. Penalties to non-cooperators made it more costly to not cooperate than to cooperate, lowering the adherence probability, making cooperation more likely. In the case of proactive terrorist policies, as denying safe havens is discussed in this paper, coordination and cooperation is required and non-cooperators can undo the efforts of others, posing collective action problems.