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Continuing conflicts between violent groups and states generate an ever-present demand for higher-quality and more timely information to support operations to combat terrorism. Better ways are needed to understand how terrorist and insurgent groups adapt over time into more-effective organizations and increasingly dangerous threats. Because learning is the link between what a group wants to do and its ability to gather the needed information and resources to actually do it, a better understanding of the group learning process could contribute to the design of more-effective measures for combating terrorism. This study analyzes current understanding of that process and the factors that influence organizational learning. Part I presents detailed case studies of learning in five terrorist organizations: Aum Shinrikyo, The Radical Environmentalist Movement, Hizballah, Jemaah Islamiyah, and the Provisional Irish Republican Army. In Part II, a methodology is developed for ascertaining what and why groups learned, gaining insights into their learning processes, and discerning ways in which the law enforcement and intelligence communities might apply that understanding. Insights drawn from the organizational learning literature are then applied to the case studies. A companion report, Aptitude for Destruction, Volume 1: Organizational Learning in Terrorist Groups and its Implications for Combating Terrorism, MG-331-NIJ, focuses on the application of the concepts developed in this study to policy for combating terrorism. That report presents an abbreviated overview of the research presented here and explores the application of the results by law enforcement and intelligence activities.

Table of Contents

Chapter One:
Introduction Brian A. Jackson

Chapter Two:
Aum Shinrikyo John Parachini

Chapter Three:
Hizballah, the Party of God Kim Cragin

Chapter Four:
Jemaah Islamiyah John C. Baker

Chapter Five:
Provisional Irish Republican Army Brian A. Jackson

Chapter Six:
The Radical Environmentalist Movement Horacio R. Trujillo

Chapter Seven:
Theory: Organizational Learning as a Four-Component Process Horacio R. Trujillo and Brian A. Jackson

Chapter Eight:
Application: The Four Components of Organizational Learning in the Case Study Groups Brian A. Jackson

Chapter Nine:
Concluding Observations Brian A. Jackson

Book Review Excerpts

"Rated 4 stars out of 5. Jemaah Islamiyah, Aum Shinrikyo, Hizballah, the Provisional Irish Republican Army, and the radical environmentalist movement are singled out for case studies in volume two of this RAND examination of how terrorists learn. Readers come to understand the backgrounds, operations and tactics, training methods, logistics, and intelligence operations of these groups. With these highlighted biographies, readers can easily see how the prosperity or demise of these groups is commensurate with their ability to learn and adapt. Studying these groups is certainly helpful, but the authors don't pretend that understanding their learning process will make the intelligence officer's job of tracking terrorists an easy task. However, insight into their thinking and learning processes is a critical first step."

- Security Management, January 2006

The research described in this report was supported by awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The research was conducted within RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment (ISE), a division of the RAND Corporation, for the National Institute of Justice.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation monograph series. RAND monographs present major research findings that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND monographs undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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