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Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime, and Militancy Paperback – November 5, 2001

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Editorial Reviews


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.
Anne Wagner

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.
Jay Tolson

Arquilla and Ronfeldt are a rare breed: strategic thinkers of the information age.
Nathan Gardels

...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.
Bob Vogel

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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 380 pages
  • Publisher: RAND Corporation (October 26, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0833030302
  • ISBN-13: 978-0833030306
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,141,171 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert David STEELE Vivas HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
Although their references lean toward "the usual suspects" among the beltway bubbas, and none of the authors demonstrate real access to the various hacker groups with deeper insights than any government bureaucrat will ever achieve, this is without question one of the best sets of articles, put together by two people I view as being the most capable in this area of inquiry, and therefore I recommend it very strongly as a starting point.
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.
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Format: Paperback
This is a timely, well researched and thoughtful book about the world we have come to inhabit over the past decade, with a punctuation mark added for September 11. That said, it is not like so many 'quickie books' written to take advantage of recent events. Authors John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt of the RAND Corporation have been among the most thoughtful writers about security and diplomacy in an information age. Their previous works include Cyberwar is Coming, The Advent of Netwar, In Athena's Camp, and Swarming and the Future of Conflict. Their latest work is Networks and Netwars. Here they look inside "the lower-intensity, societal-level counterpart to...the mostly military concept of Cyberwar."
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.
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This is the best 'network theory' book I've read. The book is a collection, and the 'field work' is more enthusiastic than thought provoking. Binding together the fieldwork, at front and back, is the analysis of Arquilla and Ronfeldt. Though only 20% of the text, their comments make the reading exceptionally rewarding.
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.
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