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<nettime> Learning from Al-Quaeda
Soenke Zehle on Mon, 26 Jan 2004 04:09:02 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> Learning from Al-Quaeda


Bruce Hoffmann, Vice President for External Affairs, Director of RAND's
Washington, D.C. Office, and extraordinarily prolific contributor to the
roster of its pubs [1], suggests that we need to learn from the way
Al-Quaeda turned itself into a global brand:

"Indeed, what bin Laden has done is to implement for al-Qaeda the same type
of effective organizational framework or management approach adapted by many
corporate executives throughout much of the industrialized world over the
past decade. Just as large, multinational business conglomerates moved
during the 1990s to more linear, flatter and networked structures, bin Laden
did the same with al-Qaeda. Additionally, bin Laden defined a flexible
strategy for the group that functions at multiple levels, using both
top-down and bottom-up approaches. On the one hand, bin Laden has functioned
like the president or CEO of a large multinational corporation by defining
specific goals and aims, issuing orders and ensuring their implementation.
... On the other hand, he has operated as a venture capitalist by soliciting
ideas from below, encouraging creative approaches and out-of the-box
thinking, and providing funding to those proposals he finds promising. ...
Al-Qaeda, therefore, deliberately has no single, set modus operandi- which
makes it all the more formidable. Instead, bin Laden built a movement that
actively encourages subsidiary groups fighting under its banner to mix and
match approaches, employing different tactics and varying means of attack
and operational styles in a number of locales. Underpinning al-Qaeda's
worldwide operations is bin Laden's vision, self-perpetuating mythology and
skilled acumen at effective communications."

So we better listen up as bin Laden not only rehearses but implements the
orthodoxies of neoliberal management and public relations theory. Says
Hoffmann.

As with many RAND reports (check their earlier pubs on what they call the
Zapatista netwar, for example), what intrigues me is the extent to which the
semi-sober professionalism of these commentaries betrays a fair amount of
respect for the organizations they describe (or perhaps for the very
capitalist logic they are thought to exemplify, suggesting that its
arch-enemy is in fact its mirror image.)

Implications? Not sure. Maybe follow the increasing employment of
'competitive commercial wargaming' as a consulting strategy, which continues
to soar in the appreciation of competition-squeezed corporations and does
strike me as an appropriate corporate counterpart to the official war on
terrorism. [3] But there is more, given that commercial wargaming continues
to filter back into military simulation etc., a really interesting circuit
[4], sz

[1] <http://www.rand.org/news/experts/hoffman.html>

[2] Hoffmann, Bruce. "What we can learn from the terrorists?"  (16 Jan
2004). <http://www.rand.org/commentary/011604GA/learn_from_al-qaeda.pdf>

[3] Oriesek, Daniel F., and Roman Friedrich. "Planspiele: Blick in die
Zukunft." Harvard Businessmanager 5 (29 April 2003).

[4] <http://www.hyw.com/Books/WargamesHandbook/9-3-wpw.htm>

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