THE MAGAZINE

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

By Terry L. Wettig

*****  Aptitude for Destruction: Case Studies of Organizational Learning in Five Terrorist Groups.
 By Brian A. Jackson, John C. Baker, Peter Chalk, R. Kim Cragin, John V. Parachini, and Horacio R. Trujillo; published by the RAND Corporation, www.rand.org (Web); 214 pages; $30.

Aptitude for Destruction: Organizational Learning in<br />
Terrorist Groups and Its Implications for Combating Terrorism. How does a seemingly normal person become a terrorist willing to savagely take human life? What makes that person able to adopt new strategies? Simply put, it is something learned, often through indoctrination. A two-volume work by RAND explores this phenomenon, studying the concepts and processes of learning and applying it to the world of terrorism.

Volume one guides the reader through this process of learning, highlighting why terror groups must learn how to be effective and how tactical knowledge, or lack thereof, ultimately influences the effectiveness of the group. The necessity of learning can be said to be Darwinian, as suggested by the authors: “Actions taken to combat terrorism provide a powerful incentive for a group to continue to learn, since a terrorist group that does not adapt in response to new security or intelligence measures will, at a minimum, be rendered ineffective or, more likely, will be infiltrated and dismantled.”

The beauty of volume one is its versatility. Though written with an eye towards terrorist groups, its concepts are equally applicable to any criminal enterprise. Simply substituting the word “criminal” for “terrorist” makes this book germane to anyone tasked with predicting or countering crime. Overall, the volume is a fascinating study of how terrorists, and criminals, become who they are.

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