The wiki site below gives a pretty good description of cults — how they differ from standard religious or political organizations, how they attract followers, the dangers associated with them — some murderous and others suicidal.
Al Qaeda looks to be to be a typical example of what is described in the wiki piece. We call talk about “wars on terror,” but in fact what we are dealing with is not a rational organization. One cannot defeat it by military means. The wiki piece suggests that people leave cults:
1. by one’s own decision,
2. through expulsion
3. through intervention (Exit counseling, deprogramming)
If we wish to win this ‘war’, we had better reframe our understanding of the nature of the enemies with whom we are dealing and adjust our responses accordingly. Lashing out blindly with military force plays into the hands of those whom we are trying to deter. Persuasion is the only effective tool that we have.
“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)
Ed Kent [blind copies]