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Sunday, June 26, 20051119817800

No Running Starts for Micromultinational Terrorist Networks

"How Companies Cope," by Thomas Friedman, The World is Flat, 2005, pg 356.

From Friedman's thought-provoking work on globalization

"In the old days," said Vive Paul, the Wipro president, "when you started a company, 'Boy, in twenty years, I hope we will be a multinational company.' Today, you say to yourself that on day two I will be a multinational. Today, there are thirty-person companies starting out with twenty employees in Silicon Valley, and ten in India... And if you are a multiproduct company, you are probably going to have some manufacturing relationships in Malaysia and China, some design in Taiwan, some customer support in India and the Phippines, and possibly some engineering in Russia and the U.S." These are the so-called micromultinationals, and they are the wave of the future.

Is this change in business companies also relevant for terrorist networks? If a company can be a micromultinational in two days, can a terrorist organization?

First, let's diagram a simple 21-man micromultinational

Three Layers, Four Countries

Note that we don't know if the top level is "CEO" or "Emir," if the middle layer is "Manager" or "Sheik," or if the lowest level is "Knowledge Worker" or "Mujahid." We only know it is a relatively flat command-and-control network with operations in the United States, European Union, South Asia, and Middle East / North Africa.

We solve the mystery if we ask what enables the peaceful corporation to make itself a micromultinational in two days:

  • Common language
  • Communications technology
  • Trust in contracts

Trust in contracts is vital to quickly build a micromultinational. In business, if your new European component doesn't do what you want, you can sue them and get your money back. You also know your workers are unlikely to kill you.

Trust is lacking when trying to quickly build terrorist micromultinationals. Not only may the jihadis you just gave money to run out and spend it in Bangkok, they may be Enemy agents trying to kill you.

This means corporations are more nimble than terrorists, no matter how much terrorists want to be entrepreneurs.


Presumably this is why criminal organizations grow along family or ethnic minority lines.

Members of an extended family or people from the same tribe or village tend to trust each other more. Compare Mafia of all sorts.

Maybe strong faiths can have this effect too. I'm reminded what you said here :

Could it be that some islamic sects are fast vectors for guerrilla entrepreneurs precisely *because* their strictness engenders greater trust among the members?

Posted by: phil jones | Friday, June 09, 2006


Very good comment. It reminds me of the first and last posts on my series on liberal education -- "The Petty Troika" [1] and "The Mitochondrial Peace." [2] Family provides a natural sympathy-group, while ideology provides an extended one. As you noted in that article on the fusion of family and religion among American Christians (as well as the same forces in Iraqi Sunnis [3]), groups that can combine both become extremely powerful.

You are right about strictness. Strict religions thrive because the high entrance price discourages free riders.

On last thought: if you are using "guerrilla entrepreneurs" to mean the same thing as John Robb's "violence capitalist" [4], I would caution your thinking. Robb uses "capitalism" to mean the same thing as "ideology," to hide the fact that his Global Guerrillas theory relies on idealists of violence (not just violent idealists) to succeed.

[1] http://tdaxp.blogspirit.com/archive/2006/01/22/liberal-education-part-i-the-petty-troika.html
[2] http://tdaxp.blogspirit.com/archive/2006/01/28/liberal-education-part-iv-the-mitochondrial-peace.html
[3] http://tdaxp.blogspirit.com/archive/2005/05/17/pmw_4gw_fusion_ending_the_insurgency.html
[4] http://globalguerrillas.typepad.com/globalguerrillas/2006/06/iraq_zarqawi_is.html

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Sunday, June 11, 2006