The review paper critically analyses the article by Brian A. Jackson “Groups, Networks, or Movements: A Command-and-Control-Driven Approach to Classifying Terrorist Organizations and Its Application to Al Qaeda” in terms of identifying terrorist groups, networks and movements.
It is a rather challenging task to define the features and the boundaries of terrorist operations. From both theoretical and empirical perspectives, the activities of terrorist structures are rather complicated in their organizational setting. As a relevant example, the author applies to the most influential terrorist organization in the world Al Qaeda. Brian Jackson refers to public policies and broad discussion about the status of Al Qaeda, whether it is a group, a specialized network, or broad social movement. At that, the author emphasizes on the differential consequences of attributing a terrorist organization to one of these categories. To settle any misunderstandings, the author particularly focuses on the power of commandant control linkages within a terrorist organization to spot the differences between and cross out the boundaries of its perception as a group, a network, or a social movement.
Prior to 9/11 attacks, experts placed various hypotheses of whether Al Qaeda was internally organized as a corporation, franchise, foundation, or organizational network. Today, it is clear that Al Qaeda is a network of various affiliates that evolved into a powerful decentralized ideological movement promoting the ideas of global jihad.
The author has applied a vast variety of academic terms and language to identify and categorize the particular features of terrorist organizations making it different from other social structures. This purely theoretical analysis is, nonetheless, rather important for our deeper understanding of the nature of threats posed by such kind of organizations. The applied terminology also helps us to better comprehend the nature of the ongoing terrorist conflicts. The determination of a unified terminology is rather important to jointly contradict the acts of terror and globally implement anti-terrorism measures. This is hardly possible on the basis of disordered terms and definitions which obviously cannot form relevant counteraction policies. The essential problem is that joint anti-terror operations involve various experts who use the same words, though mean different things.
To make his point comprehensive, the author applies figures indicating the examples of a complex terrorist organization. He graphically shows the directionality and types of control and influence within such organization. He emphasizes on the internal links and external boundaries that limit the strategic, operational, and tactical functions of Al Qaeda. The ideological network was chosen as a relevant example to reveal the organizational structuring and operational functioning of minor terrorist organizations. Such insider revelation presents valuable empirical conclusions important for the investigators of the acts of terror all over the world.
Brian A. Jackson refers to the organizational linkages and the commonly applied resources by Al Qaeda to display the same methods used by other terrorist organizations, networks, and movements. The research findings can therefore serve as invaluable resource for conducting a deep analysis of terrorist operations and attacks. Empirically, this insider study is rather important as it will help experts to warn and prevent the potential terror attacks and possibly ruin some terrorist organizations from within. This implies that the analyzed article is not only of theoretical importance in terms of establishing a unified terminology among the experts, but it also bears significant empirical insights to how terrorist organizations operate in real settings.