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Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime, and Militancy Paperback – November 5, 2001
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RECOMMENDED READING. Whatever weaponry they employ, contemporary terrorists are using the diffuse, often leaderless, organizational and operational approaches outlined in Networks and Netwars...[T]hese essays valuably set forth 'an emerging form of conflict [and crime]...in which the protagonists use network forms of organization and related doctrines...attuned to the information age.
Arquilla and Ronfeldt are a rare breed: strategic thinkers of the information age.
...The relevancy of the book is horrifically uncanny; It was finished just before the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, and includes an Afterword from Arquilla and Ronfeldt examining the terrorist attacks... Anyone who is not afraid to challenge their own thinking about how the war on terrorism is to be fought will find 'Networks and Netwars' thought-provoking and eye-opening, to say the least.
Belying its title, Networks and Netwar is not targeted at technophiles. In fact, this is an excellent text for many reading audiences: social scientists, computer scientists, policy makers, military leaders or anyone interested in emerging threats. All can benefit from the depth of research and breadth of perspective that are adroitly combined in this accessible text. RAND researchers Arquilla and Ronfeldt are among the elite futurists who have consistently anticipated the global security implications of the information age. Like Toffler and Kurzweil, they peer into the future of the information age and describe how to prepare for a technology-enabled world. This is the kind of text service colleges must embrace. While many individuals and institutions continue to sort through post-cold war confusion, Arquilla and Ronfeldt look ahead, pointing to threats on the horizon. Their revelations suggest an unprecedented need for changing the way that we think about organizations and conflict. This is not a book about computer networks. The focus is on people and networking concepts, elucidated within a framework of well-documented historical facts. The authors describe netwar as Janus-like, having two faces, one with potential for good, and one with potential for evil. Network power harnessed for social good can empower citizens to realize democratic ideals. Harnessed for evil, network power can enable global terrorism and widespread insurgent violence. As the authors were completing the text during the fall of 2001, their 'theory struck home with a vengeance'. The events of September 11 prompted Arquilla and Ronfeldt to note their prescience [in an Afterword]. They warned in Chapter 2 that 'Information-age terrorists like al Qaeda might pursue a war paradigm, developing capabilities to strike multiple targets from multiple directions, in swarming campaigns that extend beyond an incident or two'. Their predictions were frighteningly prescient. Arquilla and Ronfeldt's profound observations are a welcome challenge to traditional thinking about technology and conflict. Their precise extension of the definition of war is timely. This book is sure to influence both military and political leaders.
Lt. Col. Stephen Parshley
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Top Customer Reviews
As with most publications by RAND it lacks an index, for which I deduct one star. The value of an index does not appear to be appreciated by those who publish these taxpayer-funded collections, and I continually lament the myopia that prevents the publishers from making such a useful collection even more valuable by taking the time to create an aggregate index.
I hope this is the last of the theoretical volumes. While it has some operationally-oriented contributions, one of the best being by Phil Williams on Transnational Criminal Networks, it is too theoretical overall, and much too US-centric. There are French, Nordic, and Singaporean, and Australian authorities, to mention just a few, that the editors must now make an effort to bring into a larger dialog. At the same time, it is now vital that we get on with much deeper study and discussion of the actual networks and specific practices--we must do much more in documenting the "order of battle" for netwar.Read more ›
The editors are joined by Michele Zanini, Sean Edwards, Phil Williams, John Sullivan, Tiffany Danitz, Warren Strobel, Paul de Armond, Dorothy Denning, and Luther Gerlach, and focus on the nature of what has been thought of as an emerging form of conflict and competition. They explore Netwar's "dual nature...composed of conflicts waged, on the one hand, by terrorists, criminals, and ethnonationalist extremists; and by civil-society activists". The essays lock in on an overarching theme. "What distinguishes Netwar as a form of conflict is the networked organizational structure of its practitioners-with many groups actually being leaderless-and the suppleness in their ability to come together quickly in swarming attacks."
While our attention is focused on Afghan campaign in the news every night, not all Netwar is of the type practiced by Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. The broad range of Netwar is demonstrated in the complementary essays.Read more ›
The deep dynamic guiding Arquilla and Ronfeldt's analysis is that the information revolution favors the rise of network forms of organization and thus redefines cooperation and conflict. According to their terminology, the really bad side is 'cyberwar', an earlier book. 'Netwar' is a more ambiguous form of network conflict, one that can be used by social activists for the benefit of all. While I find their scholarship excellent, I'm less than sanguine regarding our ability to distinguish enthusiasm from cohersion.
The term netwar calls attention to the prospect of network-based conflict becoming pervasive at all levels of social interaction. Just as romance is now streamlined by online match-makers, so too will the new technologies enhance and focus aggression, both the good and bad kind. According to the authors, 'Netwar' is a form of 'just warfare.' Most of the book covers examples of non-violent, democratic netwar-warriors.There is a brief review of traditional crime going online for drug distribution efficiencies, but most is devoted to friendly political activists ranging from Zapatistas to anti-globalists.
Fortunately, the authors forget their preoccupation with Zapatistas when trying to make sense of the field work. In particular, they focus on the remarkably vague notions we attach to the term 'networks'. It seems everyone knows what it means, but no one has the same concept in mind.Read more ›