Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Franchise vs. conglomerate, strategy vs. ideology, IO vs. material gain

While this Yemen thing is at the top of the news, I think it's worth taking a look at a couple of different things on the subject of al-Qaeda's organization, direction, and strategy. A lot of people are working on the question of how meaningful the links are between AQ Central and its affiliates; I don't have anything to offer on this, but I'd direct you towards a couple of posts from Josh McLaughlin at al-Sahwa:

Al Qaeda: Franchise or Conglomerate?, 10 January

A Follow-up to "Al Qaeda: Franchise or Conglomerate?" Comments, 11 January

Also worth checking out another al-Sahwa post, this one from DP: AQAP & A Central Question We Must Ask, 08 January.

All in all, al-Sahwa is doing really great stuff on this subject, so check them out.

I also want to direct your attention to something else that I've previously linked to in passing: a friend's Masters thesis on the question of how well AQ and Associated Movements' actions harmonize with their stated strategic goals, and on the importance of ideology within the operational construct of what he calls the Global Jihadist Movement.

To Kill or Not to Kill - The Global Jihadist Movement and the Doctrine of Takfir, Robert A. Williams, University of St Andrews

Here's the abstract:
Since 9/11, many within Western defense and counterterrorism communities have approached al-Qaeda simply as an operational problem with only scant attention paid to the ideology behind their operations. This study intends to partially remedy this deficiency by analyzing how a portion of jihadist ideology—the doctrine of takfir—has been interpreted and implemented organizationally and strategically by the post 9/11 Global Jihadist Movement (GJM). Drawing on the theory of Netwar, this study examines the historical and contemporary jihadist narratives of takfir, the place of takfir in the organizational strategies laid out by GJM strategists, and the implementation of takfir by a GJM-affiliated group, al-Qaeda in Iraq. From this analysis it is concluded that disagreements within the GJM over the definition and implementation of takfir are emblematic of greater fissures within the movement at large.
Like I said, Bobby's a friend of mine, but this is really outstanding and ground-breaking work. He got some great feedback from Dave Kilcullen, who has really been responsible for popularizing the "takfiri" concept in the West. I know it's a bit long for train reading, probably (59 pages), but you should check it out.

1 comment:

  1. Just curious what you guys think of the al-Sahwa piece(s). They finished the third piece on AQ as a conglomerate since you posted this. One of the courses that I recall most clearly from when I finished my MBA was the capstone course on strategic management that covered corporate strategy, as it pertained to types of conglomerates and strategies for expanding into new markets. I left my two cents at the first and third piece and think there is some merit to the conglomerate theory (though I think it need not be either-or). I guess my only curiosity is whether it is more than just an interesting discussion or whether it really helps out with intelligence analysis.