Business 101 tells us what to expect next from jihadists: good news for them, bad for us.

Summary:  Years of assassinating jihadists have improved the breed and boosted their popularity. Business 101 tells us what to expect: new entrants arise to exploit this opportunity. Their competition will accelerate evolution of better business practices, making the winners even more dangerous foes. There is one powerful group fueling this process, people we can persuade to stop. (1st of 2 posts today about jihadists.)

Jihadi Competition
Jihadi Competition After al Qaeda Hegemony“, Clint Watts, Foreign Policy Research Institute, February 2014.

Our geopolitical experts, a mixture of experts and frauds, are agog over the competition between al Qaeda and the Islamic State, and befuddled by the proliferation of jihadist groups (it took most of them years to get over the idea that al Qaeda was like SPECTRE (or THRUSH or COBRA). Guesses and fantasies about our foes fly along the info highway.

The above graphic from the FPRI report tells the story. It’s the general form of graphic familiar to those who know business history. It has the outline of the world automobile industry in the 1920’s, a period of intense competition, rapid growth, and broad evolution — of product, manufacturing, finance and distribution — before the massive consolidation that took it from thousands of small companies to dozens of giants (Canada went from hundreds to zero). It’s the general form of cutting edge sectors of the software industry during its many revolutions.

As these groups grow beyond their local bases they increasingly compete amongst themselves for talent, ownership of brands and ideas, market share, and sources of financial support. Their beliefs are rooted in the 6th century, but their methods are those of the 21st. The best jihadists will win.

How we drive the evolution of the jihadists


Charles Darwin
“Didn’t you read my book?”

“We know that the Darwinian Ratchet can create advanced capabilities in stages — it’s a process that gradually creates quality — and gets around the usual presumption that fancy things require an even fancier designer.”
The Cerebral Code: Thinking a Thought in the Mosaics of the Mind (1996), William H. Calvin. Large PDF.

“The genetics of disease resistance are worth discussing here. We can think of resistance to disease as an arms race. As a population gets exposed to more and more diseases, a darwinian ratchet effect occurs, and only those with stronger immune systems survive.”
— “What are the risks of a global pandemic?“, Nathan Taylor, Praxtime, 23 March 2013

“An unforgiving environment that punishes error … leading to Darwinian pressure on both sides.”
— “Dinosaurs versus Mammals: Insurgent and Counterinsurgent Adaptation in Iraq“, RAND, May 2008. They were only half right; we’ve learned nothing.

We — the American military and CIA — provide much of the energy that drives innovation and evolution in the jihadist movement. Our bases on their lands fuel resentment (our Saudi bases helped created al Qaeda). Our occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan generate hatred of America (a natural to occupation by rich foreign infidels; the Brits didn’t like us in 1944 even through we were cousins and there to help them). Our flying killing machines evoke intense hatred.

We support the jihadist movement by killing their leaders. Careless security in communications or personnel means death. Operational flaws mean death. Only the careful and skilled survive. We act like mad doctors who dose our sick patients with low levels of antibiotics that do not eradicate the infection — merely breeding resistant strains of superbugs. It’s called the Darwinian ratchet.

I might have been the first to note this dynamic at work in our wars, in my first post on 22 September 2003: “War is the ultimate form of Darwinian evolution. Guerrillas learn swiftly; only the most capable survive.” The next post expanded on that. Eleven years later this has become obvious (except to our military leaders). Here are a few posts explaining how the Darwinian ratchet works.

  1. Another “must-read” presentation by Kilcullen about COIN, 27 May 2008.
  2. Our tactics are an obstacle to victory in the Long War, as the Darwinian Ratchet works against us, 19 April 2011.
  3. A senior US general explains that we’re learning to fight 4GWs, but slowly. 20 August 2014.

Mechanics of jihadists’ rapid evolution

Standard business theory explains what’s happening and points to a big future for jihadists — although we cannot predict what form that will take, or what organizations will own the top rungs. It’s wonderful news for them. It’s bad news for us. This afternoon’s post provides the details.

Source: Syed Zaid Zaman Hamid.

For More Information

Some posts to help you understand our foes.

(a)  Here are a few of the more useful reports about the competition between al Qaeda and the Islamic State:

  1. ISIS, al-Qaeda compete for supremacy in global jihad“, Al Monitor, 11 February 2014 — “Much media attention has recently focused on a statement issued by al-Qaeda’s central command on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border under Ayman al-Zawahri’s leadership, declaring that the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has no relationship with the central leadership of al-Qaeda.”
  2. Jihadi Competition After al Qaeda Hegemony“, Clint Watts, Foreign Policy Research Institute, February 2014 – “The ‘Old Guard’, Team ISIS & The Battle For Jihadi Hearts & Minds”.
  3. ISIS gaining ground in Yemen, competing with al Qaeda“, CNN, 22 January 2015.

(b)  Posts about ISIS, the Islamic State

  1. Before we start a new war with ISIS, let’s remember how we stumbled into the last two, 21 August 2014.
  2. The long-simmering conflict in the Middle East breaks out, surprising US experts, 26 August 2014.
  3. America plays the hegemon while ruled by fear and machismo. FAIL., 2 September 2014.
  4. The solution to jihad: kill and contain our foes. Give war another chance!, 8 September 2014.
  5. One day in America shows our eagerness for war. We’ll get what we want., 10 September 2014.
  6. America and the Islamic State both hope to change the world with rivers of blood, 19 September 2014.
  7. “SAS kill up to 8 jihadis each day, as allies prepare to wipe IS off the map.” Bold words we’ve heard before., 24 November 2014.

(c)  About our war with Islam:

  1. The Fight for Islamic Hearts and Minds, 20 February 2012.
  2. We are the attackers in the Clash of Civilizations. We’re winning., 23 September 2013.
  3. Handicapping the clash of civilizations: bet on America to win, 24 September 2014.
  4. We seek a future of war with Islam, while wearing a cloak of virtue, 9 September 2014.

(d)  Posts about Islam:

  1. Hatred and fear of Islam – of Moslems – is understandable. But are there hidden forces at work?, 3 August 2010.
  2. Should we fear that religion whose believers have killed so many people?, 4 August 2010.
  3. Hard (and disturbing) information about schools in Pakistan – the madāris, 1 May 2011.

9 thoughts on “Business 101 tells us what to expect next from jihadists: good news for them, bad for us.”

  1. “We act like mad doctors who dose our sick patients with low levels of antibiotics that do not eradicate the infection”

    Low levels, really? The gargantuan resources put into fighting terrorism and the sheer devastation wrought upon near-eastern countries belies that assessment.

    Rather, it looks as if we have been overdosing sick patients with massive amounts of antibiotics — a useless therapy when the illness is caused by viruses.

    1. Guest,

      No. The dosage analogy is about damage done to the infection: how much “fire” we put on the target. In this case, attacks on the organizational structure of jihadist organizations.

      If your doctor gives you too-low dosage of antibiotic but also burns down your home, do you say the dosage was too large? No. Burning the garage was unrelated and even irrelevant to the treatment.

  2. If there be any truth to this sort of thinking, the FM, Global Guerrilas, Sic Semper Tyrannis, and Zenpundit will all consolidate into a single website.

  3. The diagram you show would benefit from a comparison in “Circle Size” with other states in the region and the US. My guess, though, in doing so, you’d find that with the exception of ISIS they’d all be tiny little dots and ISIS itself would barely be pea sized in comparison with the US military.

    The consolidation of rats into a rat king isn’t likely to pose much of a society wide threat no matter how great a horror movie it’d be.

    1. PF Khan,

      That’s been said of almost every new political movement and industry in the modern era. From the American and French revolutions to the automobile, computer, and biotechnology industries. It’s usually right — but often spectacularly wrong. In other words, it’s not a useful perspective on the world. It’s the equivalent of a blindfold.

      The post going up soon talks more about this, and gives some examples from the past of your perspective.

  4. Arrogance has been the ruin of many a chess player who thought he owned the board. You describe a kind of limitless pawn promotion as our undoing. Turning pawns into rooks and nights by promotion is a long odds gambit but with stealth against a foolish and arrogant opponent it can be done.

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