Considering Al-Qa'ida's Innovation Doctrine

From Strategic Texts to "Innovation in Practice"

Published in: Terrorism and Political Violence, v. 25, no. 2, 2013, p. 284-310

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2013

by Brian A. Jackson, Bryce Loidolt

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Understanding how terrorist groups innovate and adapt is key for anticipating future shifts in terrorist threats. Past innovation studies have identified factors that shape group behavior, as well as the importance of combining study of organizations' innovation doctrines with data on how these doctrines are put into practice. Here we describe such an analysis for two texts that have shaped al-Qa'ida and its associated movements' strategies: contrasting Naji's Management of Savagery with al-Suri's Call to Global Islamic Resistance--including elements of the latter relevant to innovation specifically translated for this work. Though open source data on the groups' innovation practices are necessarily more sparse, we contrast the doctrinal texts with selected examples, which suggest caution in assuming that group doctrine is necessarily put into practice "as written."

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