Terrorist mis-management

Pity poor Ayman Al-Zawahiri. Not only is the USA reading his communications, and the Egyptians arresting his brother, he's forced to deal with problems such as those profligate bastards in Al-Qaeda Yemen splurging his hard-earned cash on a new fax machine:

When he took over al Qaeda in 2011, senior U.S. intelligence officials were already pointing out his penchant for micro-management. (In one instance in the 1990s, he reached out to operatives in Yemen to castigate them for buying a new fax machine when their old one was working just fine.)
We never see this aspect of terrorist life portrayed on "24", but I feel they missed a trick here. Think of the missed potential for a gripping scene where Habib Marwan escapes from his hideout with CTU in hot pursuit, but is weighed down by several safeboxes full of receipts and outstanding invoices from his minions which he can't leave behind in case he leaves an expense claim unpaid - or, worse, lets through a claim from Navi Araz for carpet cleaning without a receipt.

Jacob N. Shapiro's analysis makes amusing reading. He points out how terrorism "in the large" increasingly resembles a medium-size business. Perhaps at the top level the leaders aren't worried about filing accounts with the Inland Revenue - unless they have some country's intelligence service providing funding, in which case the audits might be just as bad - but they have to struggle to manage very limited funds to give the best bang per buckriyal, demanding accountability from staff who have practically been selected to be unstable and rejecting authority and order.

Perhaps al-Zawahiri should take inspiration from Hank Scorpio; providing good healthcare and an attractive pension plan for your minions does seem to go a long way towards smooth running of your terrorist organisation, and showing personal concern for their domestic problems does a lot for loyalty. al-Zawahiri doesn't really seem to be a people person; he should rope in someone more personable to supplant him in the day-to-day people management. Alan Sugar, maybe. "Hamas al-Masri: you're fired!" <boom>

I do wonder about this assertion though:

Terrorist managers are also obliged to place a premium on bureaucratic control, because they lack other channels to discipline the ranks. When Walmart managers want to deal with an unruly employee or a supplier who is defaulting on a contract, they can turn to formal legal procedures. Terrorists have no such option.
Were I to run an international terrorist organisation, I'd put a premium on remote management of problems. Specifically, I'd be selecting my heads-of-region based on their ability to deal effectively with problems. Since they are (by definition) not bound by legal considerations, I'd expect the "unruly employee" problem to raise its head only once, and that very briefly. After that they can rely on word of mouth to propagate the result of giving grief to the organisation's management layer. If Mr. al-Zawahiri is reading this, I'd be willing to consult on people management re-engineering for a very reasonable fee; just email me your address, with the email titled "al-Zawahiri's permanent address" so it won't get trapped in my spam filters.

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