Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime and Militancy', published by RAND and prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, provides an in-depth look into the ways the 'bad guys'-- from terrorists to street gangs-- organize their networks and utilize technology. The book begins with a descriptions of what the word 'netwar' means, and it is more than a group that uses the Internet in its battles. Rather, editors John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt explain, netwar is different from ordinary war because of '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'. Think Osama bin Laden's network of terrorist cells. Although it is not the only component of netwars, advanced technology can play an important role within networks. In one of the book's most timely chapters, contributors Michele Zanini and Sean J.A. Edwards examine the way networked terrorist organizations operate and the way they utilize technology. But networks shouldn't just be associated with terrorists. The editors explain that networks can be used to effect social change as much as they can be used to terrorize. One such example was the 1999 protests of the World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle. Besides the chapters on terrorism and the Seattle protests, 'Networks and Netwars' features examinations of organized crime, gangs and street-level netwars, cyber-activism, social netwars in Mexico and the Internet as a tool for influencing foreign policy. Networks, the editors write, are going to be 'the next major form of organization' in our society. 'Networks and Netwars' is an effective tool for people who want to understand them.
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
From the Publisher
The fight for the future makes daily headlines. Its battles are notbetween the armies of leading states, nor are its weapons the large,expensive tanks, planes and fleets of regular armed forces. Rather, thecombatants come from bomb-making terrorist groups like Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda, drug smuggling cartels like those in Colombia and Mexico, and militant anarchists like the Black Bloc that ran amok during the Battle of Seattle. Other protagonists are civil-society activists fighting fordemocracy and human rights-from Burma to the Balkans. What all have incommon is that they operate in small, dispersed units that can deployniimbly-anywhere, anytime. They know how to penetrate and disrupt, as well as elude and evade. All feature network forms of organization, doctrine, strategy, and technology attuned to the information age. And, from the Intifadah to the drug war, they are proving very hard to beat; some may actually be winning. This is the story we have to tell.