Wednesday, June 2, 2010

3rd in AQ = Drummer in Hard Rock Band?

Interesting post in Slate on why it always seems to be the case that the US and its allies capture or kill the number three guy in the Al Qaeda hierarchy.  I love any post that puts things like this:
Some jobs just seem impossible to keep filled. Hollywood studio head. United States ambassador to Iraq. Editor of the New York Daily News. Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
I love a good Harry Potter reference. Anyhow, here are Timothy Noah's speculations:
The obvious question here is whether these four people successively held the position of No. 3 in al-Qaida—in which case, as Jon Stewart has observed on The Daily Show, the job would appear to be "sort of a raw deal"—or whether counterterrorism officials are inclined to call any reasonably high-ranking Tom, Dick, or Harry "al-Qaida's No. 3" simply for the purposes of propaganda. Another possibility is that our side does this for the purposes of psy-ops, to create confusion among the al-Qaida rank and file about their own organization's true hierarchy. (It isn't like you can get Bin Laden to adjudicate turf wars every time confusion arises over the chain of command.) Yet another possibility is that al-Qaida's management hierarchy is ludicrously top-heavy, and that "No. 3" is a position held simultaneously by many people who in a similarly top-heavy corporation would be labeled "vice president."
My vote is for the third.  If terrorist organizations are anything like university bureaucracies (and they surely must be), then I would not be surprised with a proliferation of assistant vice provosts  leaders.

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