“Fighting terrorism,” Shimon Peres once said, “is like eating soup with a fork.”

This sentence begs the question: If the enemy is “soup,” then why are we fighting it with a “fork”? In other words, we are using the wrong tools in this war. We need to take into account the enemy’s methods of fighting and develop counter-methods that mimic them.

For example, we should have an intelligence unit whose job is to study the structure of Al-Qaeda, and we should use that information to get ourselves organized accordingly. Our current structure – comprising an army, a navy, and an air force – is the right structure for fighting another country that has an army, a navy, and an air force. Al-Qaeda has none of these.

If what I have read in the newspapers is accurate, Al-Qaeda’s structure is rather loose. (Even if this is incorrect, my point is still valid: We should organize ourselves to reflect the way they are organized.) Al-Qaeda basically has three support structures, and the rest is a network. The support structures are: first, the madrassas, the schools where young children and other interested parties are indoctrinated in radical Islamic ideology; second, the military training camps, where recruits learn the techniques of terrorism; and third, the Internet, where they are alerted to calls to action and where essential information, such as how to assemble bombs, is readily available.

Analyzed using the Adizes code, it is a (PA) system – a very strict, inflexible interpretation of the Koran and the sharia, strong on rules and discipline – that is delivered to and integrated with others by committed individuals who use their own creativity to determine how to reach and attract others: in other words, an (EI) delivery, strong on (E)ntrepreneurship and (I)ntegration.

Ironically, Al-Qaeda’s system fits modern American management principles so closely that you would think bin Laden had studied the American management gurus and deliberately set out to apply their methods: Al-Qaeda is united by a common mission and system of values; it gives its members the tools to do the job; and its network is flexible enough to deliver the mission successfully.

We, on the other hand, work in just the opposite way: We have an (EI) ideology (democracy) that we try to deliver in a (PA) mode (with a military organization). It is as if we are following the traditional management theory of control and command, which modern management gurus have long rejected.

Step-by-step approach

Now let us assume that we are willing to structure ourselves to fight terrorism in a way that mimics their system. What would we do first? We could establish our own madrassas, which would teach the ideology of diversity and tolerance. We could also set up training camps for anti-terrorism. And we need to develop a network of cells or individuals dedicated to our ideology and ready to die for the cause, as they are.

The Wahhabi Saudis have established thousands of madrassas that feed Al-Qaeda with new recruits. We need to establish ten times that number of schools, where we teach the modern tools for economic success as well as the benefits of diversity, and we should subsidize the students, like the Wahhabis do. At the same time, we need to aggressively close their madrassas, to “dry up the swamp where the mosquitoes breed.”

That is step No. 1. Step No. 2 is to close their training camps. Third, our tech people must find a way to disrupt the terrorists’ use of the Internet as a source of information and networking – either by purveying disinformation or by blocking access to it completely.

To sum up: We are using a methodology of fighting that is simply inadequate for the war we are fighting. Fighting the terrorists is not like fighting another country. Terrorism is a grass-roots phenomenon, which requires a totally different system to counter it.


Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes