The Economics Of Managing A Terrorist Organization

August 19, 2013 in Daily Bulletin

Writing, we hope, not from personal experience, Jacob N. Shapiro wrote about just how difficult it is to run a successful terrorist organization:

  • Businesses have a straightforward aim: maximize profits. Terrorists on the other hand have to carefully calibrate the amount of terror they spread. Too much and their supporters in society might turn on them.
  • They need sophisticated human resource departments. Recruits are required to be okay with violence but such people are also bad at following orders and accepting authority figures. An organization might have long term plans but the foot soldiers want short-term glory.
  • Those who deviate from the playbook can’t really be fired. Walmart can use courts to sue its suppliers. Terrorist organizations have no such legal protections.
  • You’d think that terror organizations would be all about secrecy. In fact they meticulously document every single transaction – often demanding receipts for office supplies such as fax machines.
  • Al Qaeda, for example, used to keep spreadsheets that detailed payments to its fighters. Like managers in any company, senior staff spend more time taking care of accounts than actually fulfilling their organization’s objectives.

The full article talks about how this relates to the recent closure of US embassies across the world, the management challenges that other terrorist organizations have faced, how terrorist managers combat counterproductive activities, and more over here.

Source: Foreign Affairs