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Aptitude for Destruction, Volume 1

Aptitude for Destruction, Volume 1: Organizational Learning in Terrorist Groups and Its Implications for Combating Terrorism

Brian A. Jackson
John C. Baker
Kim Cragin
John Parachini
Horacio R. Trujillo
Peter Chalk
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 104
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  • Book Info
    Aptitude for Destruction, Volume 1
    Book Description:

    Better ways are needed to understand how terrorist groups become more effective and dangerous. Learning is the link between what a group wants to do and its ability to actually do it; therefore, a better understanding of group learning might contribute to the design of better measures for combating terrorism. This study analyzes current understanding of group learning and the factors that influence it and outlines a framework that should be useful in present analytical efforts and for identifying areas requiring further study.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-4076-3
    Subjects: Political Science, Transportation Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  4. Figures
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Summary
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  7. Abbreviations and Acronyms
    (pp. xix-xx)
  8. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Terrorism² and insurgent violence have become constant threats in today’s world. Nearly every day, nonstate groups in different countries carry out violent actions, many of which can be characterized as terrorism. The threat of such violence drives ongoing global military action, and the need to protect the U.S. homeland against terrorist attack is a primary shaper of the country’s domestic political agenda.³

    The experience of PIRA described above illustrates the importance of terrorist groups’ ability to change and adapt. Faced with a challenge to their operational capability, PIRA shifted, adopting a new attack form that reconstituted the threat they could...

  9. CHAPTER TWO What Is Organizational Learning?
    (pp. 9-16)

    Organizational learning is a process through which a group acquires new knowledge or technology that it then uses to make better strategic decisions, improve its ability to develop and apply specific tactics, and increase its chance of success in its operations.¹ In short, learning is change aimed at improving a group’s performance; we would not call change that is detrimentallearning

    While individual members of a group must build new skills and knowledge in order for organizational learning to take place, learning at the organizational level is more than simply the sum of what each individual member knows or can...

  10. CHAPTER THREE The Need to Learn in Order to Change Effectively
    (pp. 17-26)

    The effectiveness of a terrorist group that lacks the ability to learn will be determined largely by chance—the chance that its members already have all the necessary skills, the chance that its current tactics are effective against desirable targets and against current countermeasures, and the chance that any accidental or arbitrary shifts the group makes will prove to be beneficial. Since a terrorist group’s learning capability is a key determinant of the level of threat it poses, knowledge of that capability is critical for law enforcement and intelligence planners in allocating resources for combating the most dangerous terrorist groups....

  11. CHAPTER FOUR How Understanding Terrorist Group Learning Can Aid in Combating Terrorism
    (pp. 27-60)

    Terrorist groups present a moving target that can prove very difficult to hit. Effectively aiming efforts intended to combat terrorism hinges on being able to anticipate how groups are evolving over time.Describinga terrorist group’s evolution is a first step toward this end, butunderstandingthe processes through which the evolution takes place is even more valuable. Knowledge about the processes through which terrorist groups change enables more-educated anticipation of their future behavior, rather than simply projections based on past actions. With such an understanding, law enforcement and intelligence analysts may be able to anticipate where and how a...

  12. CHAPTER FIVE Limitations of an Organizational-Learning-Based Approach for Analysis and Operational Planning in Combating Terrorism
    (pp. 61-68)

    On the basis of our analysis and discussions with law enforcement and intelligence professionals, we believe that an organizational-learning-based approach to analyzing terrorist group behavior can make significant contributions to planning and operations for combating terrorism. However, this approach would not necessarily be appropriate in every situation.

    An organizational-learning-based framework can be useful for understanding terrorist group activities and behaviors only if information is available about the organization¹ involved. Because learning activities and processes go on inside an organization, the analyst must have enough information on these internal workings to build a plausible model of the organization—a model that...

  13. CHAPTER SIX Conclusions
    (pp. 69-72)

    To protect the public against the threat posed by terrorist organizations, law enforcement and intelligence organizations must

    Assess the threat and understand the behavior of individual terrorist groups

    Develop and implement effective counterstrategies to detect and thwart terrorist groups’ efforts

    Appropriately allocate resources against potential and proven adversaries and develop metrics to assess the effectiveness of measures for combating terrorism

    Studying how terrorist groups learn can be a valuable addition to the intelligence and law enforcement “tool box” to help in accomplishing all three of these tasks.

    Examining the behavior of terrorist groups from an organizational learning perspective presents a...

  14. APPENDIX Overview of the Case Study Groups
    (pp. 73-76)
  15. References
    (pp. 77-84)