Aptitude for Destruction: Case studies of organizational learning in five terrorist groups

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RAND Corporation, Jan 1, 2005 - Political Science - 200 pages
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Continuing conflicts between violent groups and states generate an ever-present demand for higher-quality and more timely information to support operations to combat terrorism. Better ways are needed to understand how terrorist and insurgent groups adapt over time into more-effective organizations and increasingly dangerous threats. Because learning is the link between what a group wants to do and its ability to gather the needed information and resources to actually do it, a better understanding of the group learning process could contribute to the design of more-effective measures for combating terrorism. This study analyzes current understanding of that process and the factors that influence organizational learning. Part I presents detailed case studies of learning in five terrorist organizations: Aum Shinrikyo, The Radical Environmentalist Movement, Hizballah, Jemaah Islamiyah, and the Provisional Irish Republican Army. In Part II, a methodology is developed for ascertaining what and why groups learned, gaining insights into their learning processes, and discerning ways in which the law enforcement and intelligence communities might apply that understanding. Insights drawn from the organizational learning literature are then applied to the case studies. A companion report, Aptitude for Destruction, Volume 1: Organizational Learning in Terrorist Groups and its Implications for Combating Terrorism, MG-331-NIJ, focuses on the application of the concepts developed in this study to policy for combating terrorism. That report presents an abbreviated overview of the research presented here and explores the application of the results by law enforcement and intelligence activities.

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About the author (2005)

Brian Jackson (Ph.D., bio-inorganic chemistry, California Institute of Technology) is an associate physical scientist at RAND.

JOHN C.BAKER is a Technology Policy Analyst at RAND, Arlington, Virginia. His work is concerned with the international security implications of commerical observation satellites and other dual-use space technologies. Among his earlier publications is the co-edited Commercial Observation Satellites: At the Leading Edge of Global Transparency.

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