How al Qaeda operates like the Boy Scouts of America

The Washington Post reports: Matthew Atkins was a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, on his way to full colonel, with 20 years of intelligence and counter-terrorism experience. He was frustrated. Time and again, he had watched the U.S. military take out leaders of al-Qaeda and other terror cells. And time and again, he had watched those cells regroup.

Atkins thought there might be a better way. He wanted to, in his words, “achieve truly disruptive effects on terror cells.” There is one place in America, above all others, where would-be disruptors flock. Atkins went there, to Silicon Valley, to study for a year on a fellowship at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He set up interviews with dozens of CEOs and venture capitalists. He read up on how successful terror groups organize themselves. He developed a theory on how to truly disrupt terrorists, and he published a research paper on it.

His breakthrough insight was that the best terror cells work a lot like a big nonprofit group. Like the Boy Scouts of America.

From studying the scouts, he determined the best way to stop terrorists is to target their bureaucrats – not top leaders.

“The reason I like the Boy Scouts,” Atkins said in an interview, “is they face a lot of the same management challenges that al-Qaeda does.” [Continue reading…]

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