Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Barak Mendelsohn’s Book “The al Qaeda Franchise” Reviewed in London School of Economics’ Review of Books
Barak Mendelsohn’s Book “The al Qaeda Franchise” Reviewed in London School of Economics’ Review of Books

Barak Mendelsohn’s Book “The al Qaeda Franchise” Reviewed in London School of Economics’ Review of Books

Barak Mendelsohn’s Book “The al Qaeda Franchise” Reviewed in London School of Economics’ Review of Books


LSE Review of Books

For many people, the word ‘franchise’ conjures connotations of fast food. Shifting the franchise concept from Big Macs to Bin Laden, Barak Mendelsohn’s The AlQaeda Franchise: The Expansion of al-Qaeda and its Consequences highlights the value of a theoretical approach to the question of how and why terrorist organisations decide to expand.

Whatever the organisation, decisions about whether or not to open a new franchise can have both operational and declaratory meaning. Assessing which of these is the primary motive requires an understanding of the context and a framework for analysing the role played by competing or overlapping objectives. Sometimes expansionary decisions are made from a position of strength. Other times they are a sign of weakness, a means of keeping an organisation in the news when its operational capability or sub-par performance no longer merits the headlines it needs to uphold its brand value and further burnish its reputation.

This might seem counter-intuitive, a risky reason for an organisation to decide to expand, but Mendelsohn argues that it is an accurate explanation of why al-Qaeda chose, after the 9/11 attacks, to branch out by creating franchises in several different arenas.

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