Belfer Center Home > Publications > Academic Papers & Reports > Journal Articles > Assessing the Dangers of Illicit Networks: Why al-Qaida May Be Less Dangerous Than Many Think

EmailEmail   PrintPrint Bookmark and Share

 
"Assessing the Dangers of Illicit Networks: Why al-Qaida May Be Less Dangerous Than Many Think"

AP photo

"Assessing the Dangers of Illicit Networks: Why al-Qaida May Be Less Dangerous Than Many Think"

Journal Article, International Security, volume 33, issue 2, pages 7-44

Fall 2008

Authors: Mette Eilstrup-Sangiovanni, Calvert Jones

 

ABSTRACT

Theoretical work on networked organization informs a large swathe of the current literature on international organized crime and terrorism in the field of international relations. Clandestine networks are portrayed as large, fluid, mobile, highly adaptable, and resilient. Many analysts have concluded that this makes them difficult for more stable, hierarchical states to combat. The prevailing mood of pessimism about the ability of states to combat illicit networks, however, may be premature. International relations scholars working in the area have often been too quick to draw parallels to the world of the firm, where networked organization has proven well adapted to the fast-moving global marketplace. They have consequently overlooked not only issues of community and trust but also problems of distance, coordination, and security, which may pose serious organizational difficulties for networks in general and for illicit networks in particular. Closer attention to a wider body of historical and contemporary research on dynamics of participation in underground movements, the life cycle of terrorism and insurgency, and vulnerabilities in organized crime reveals that clandestine networks are often not as adaptable or resilient as they are made out to be. An analysis of the al-Qaida network suggests that as al-Qaida adopts a more networked organization, it becomes exposed to a gamut of organizational dilemmas that threatens to reduce its unity, cohesion, and ability to act collectively.

 

For more information about this publication please contact the IS Editorial Assistant at 617-495-1914.

For Academic Citation:

Mette Eilstrup-Sangiovanni and Calvert Jones. "Assessing the Dangers of Illicit Networks: Why al-Qaida May Be Less Dangerous Than Many Think." International Security 33, no. 2 (Fall 2008): 7-44.

Bookmark and Share

SUBSCRIBE

Receive email updates on the most pressing topics in science and int'l affairs.

<em>International Security</em>

The Summer 2014 issue of the quarterly journal International Security
is now available!

Events Calendar

We host a busy schedule of events throughout the fall, winter and spring. Past guests include: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former Vice President Al Gore, and former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev.