Terrorism, Understanding Its Intangibles’

Michael D. Moberly    September 8, 2014    A long form blog where attention span really matters!

In this increasingly intertwined economic, political, and business global environment, we should come to recognize that neither citizens nor governments’ experience much, if any, strategic effectiveness/benefits by engaging in policies, military or diplomatic, which are understandably preceded with a “degrade and destroy” message.  In other words,  the ‘isms’ of terrorism, are treated as if they are tangible or physical assets, rather than intangible (non-physical) assets, and hence, once destroyed, contained, or substantially degraded, become irreplaceable or irreproducible in their previous form.

Yes, the terrorists themselves along with a large percentage of the acts they engage are very physical and tangible entities and absolutely despicable acts as are the horrifying and animalistic brutalities some participate.  But, in large part their motivations and the associated ‘isms’ are strewn  with and embedded, in an especially perverse sort of way, with intangibles, i.e., intellectual, structural, and relationship capital.

That is, the ‘isms’ embedded in much of the terrorists’ acts which we have seen and read about, particularly in recent weeks, regarding ISIL, are comprised of conglomerations of highly dogmatic manifestations in thinking, processes, and relationships.  What’s more, these manifestations of intangibles have morphed into magnets in which single-minded ruthlessness has morphed into an inexplicably attractive recruiting mechanism.

That is not to suggest governments and all of their respective defense might are incapable of mitigating or defending against the ‘isms’ of global terror. But, if one examines and responds to terrorism through an intangible vs. tangible asset lens, perhaps the range of potential methodologies and options would look differently and the outcomes more desirable. A plausible possibility, right?

Respectfully, and most understandably, conventional anti-terrorism initiatives, while they may prompt immediate feel good responses in as much as they may ‘cut off the head of the snake’ as conveyed by General Colin Powell, former Chair, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gulf War I.  It’s quite clear, such tactics alone, seldom, if ever, produce the desired strategic change deeply embedded in hundreds of years of sect mistrust, war, and terrorism. Again, the ‘isms’ have become highly personalized often through individualized receptivity to radicalization in which intellectual, structural, and relationship capital (intangible assets) serve as underliers to the ‘isms’ of terror, which unfortunately often remain simplistically characterized as ‘winning the hearts and minds’ of an adversary.

Radicalization manifest as one transforms, re-purposes, and seeks congruence to their newly adopted intellectual, structural, and relationship capital, through alignment and/or participation in a terrorist organization.

Admittedly, I am an intangible asset strategist and risk specialist and direct my experience in intellectual, structural and relationship capital matters to serving the (private) business sector. I was also an airborne infantryman assigned to the 173d Airborne Brigade in Bin Dinh Province of South Viet Nam in 1969 in which there where both highly tangible military and intangible humanitarian tactics applied.  The outcome…

As always, readers comments are most welcome.


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