Few problems in this world have a one-size-fits-all solution. Big issues, like international and domestic terrorism, are incredibly complex. So how can so many of the proposed solutions to America’s terrorism woes (like airstrikes or immigration bans) fit inside a 5-second soundbite? They can’t because they aren’t real solutions.

What’s needed is a more granular, thoughtful understanding of how terrorist groups are structured. From this, writes RAND Corporation’s Dan Gerstein in U.S. News and World Report, we can craft real strategies to America’s very real terrorism problems.

Solving the Geometrical Problem of Terrorism

Recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino have renewed concern about terrorists striking here in the homeland. While changes to security measures will undoubtedly be necessary, actions focusing narrowly on single groups or regions will not be sufficient.

In truth, no single solution or narrowly oriented set of actions will ensure the safety of Americans either here at home or overseas. Strategies to deal with terrorism should be created based on an understanding of the nature of the terrorist threat and the structure of terrorist organizations.

Think of terror organizations as being composed of four elements, organized in concentric circles with the leaders at the center bull’s eye, operational elements in the second ring, supporters in the third and sympathizers in the fourth. Each has a very different role in the organization and a different degree of commitment to the cause. Ultimately, neutralizing each group will require different strategies.

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