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Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime, and Militancy Paperback – November 5, 2001
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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.
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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. But for those who are interested in what they have to say about the recent terrorist activities, their insights are exceptional: see their essays "What Next for Networks and Netwars" and the Afterword (September 2001: The Sharpening Fight for the Future).
The latter essay was added to the book after the attacks on New York and Washington. "Theory has struck home with a vengeance. The United States must now cope with an archetypal Netwar of the worst kind. The same technology (and infrastructure) that aids social activists and those desiring good of all is also available to those with the darkest intentions, bent on destruction and driven by a rage reminiscent of the Middle Ages."
Networks and Netwars is a well written addition to their body of work. Arquilla and Ronfeldt are the internationally recognized experts in this area; together with their contributing essayists, they have written an essential volume to read and discuss as we press forward in the post-911 life of America.
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.
Wisely, the authors point out our need to define 'network organization' itself. To this end, they offer a very thoughtful survey of network organization theory. Avoiding easy answers, they list some provocative, but contradictory theories. The reader is left to piece together their own conclusions
They provide 3 perspectives: 1) 'actor and link,' 2) 'methodological' and 3) 'Naturalist'. In more familiar domains, there are the perspectives of the physicist, sociologist and botanist.
Probably most of the literature defines networks in terms of 'actors' (nodes) and 'links' (ties) whose relationships have a patterned structure. Using this scheme, one can draw a set of basic shapes for networks: chain or line networks, hub/star/wheel networks, all channel and hybrid networks.
An alternative 'actor' framework is the notion of 'friendship cliques' and 'interlocking memberships.' This suggests the notion of networks of networks. One 'actor' can belong to a variety of 'cliques', thus interlocking a variety of networks. One's personal power relates to their network assets, not personal attributes. In this case, the 'unit of analysis' is not the individual 'actor', but the network as a distinct identity. The network functions to create opportunities for both it's members and for it's 'network self. '
Another 'actor' framework stresses the importance of specific 'actor' roles. In this view, small group dynamics rely on a natural self-organization process that sorts out specific roles, and creates roles for outsiders to play. Here the focus is on the tight/loose connectedness of individuals to their network and the network to other networks. In this scheme, degrees of reciprocity characterize exchanges between parties (both individual and group). This 'flow' between actors is colored by the roles each accepts and the diversity is great. Equality is only one of many ways to order relationships.
An entirely different focus is upon measurement of 'network' units. One measure is the individual's recognition of the network as an entity. For example, network analysts might ask whether the actors recognize that they are participating in a particular network, and whether they are committed to operating as a network. 'Who do you work for?' represents the archetypical question/issue. An even deeper issue is the notion of 'self' and the ability of a 'network' to allow 'selfhood' to emerge. Though somewhat distant from mainstream terminology, almost everyone will understand the notion that organizations have a 'mind of their own' and that it implies the network has a 'selfhood' it will strive to protect.
Finally, the authors include the 'naturalist' view of Fukuyama that networks are nothing new, that networks are nothing more than 'trust' communities. Trust communities are nothing new. Along the same lines are 'small world' network theories, a body of thought that suggests networks and 'life' itself are inextricably woven together.
While the networking form of social organization has existed in other times and spaces, the new information technology paradigm provides the material basis for its pervasive expansion throughout a global social domain. Along these lines, they quote Keck and Sikkink's notion that networks are defined as "forms of organization characterized by voluntary, reciprocal, and horizontal patterns of communication and exchange. This seems addressed at one of the most universally recognized phenomena of networks, resiliency to shock unless a key hub (if there is one) is taken down. This interest in survival is a key part of the naturalist perspective.
In what I find the most illuminating discussion, the authors encompass the wide diversity in network theory by suggesting a multi-level theory of organization to account for network dynamics and resilience. In their scheme, there are 5 levels;
1. organizational design.
2. the narrative story about the network's genesis and powers.
3. The doctrinal habits used for producing desired outcomes, initiating newcomers and developing seniority.
4. Technological tools
5. Personal ties of loyalty and trust.
Personally, I suspect networks, like the Internet, evolve without a plan. They emerge and persist in spite of their plans and desires of those that give them concrete reality. Thus, I somewhat disagree with the 'title' of level #1, if not the concept.
Their focus on level #2, the network's organizational story, is probably the most original and insightful. Though the authors seem hopeful that 'netwar' has a bright side, consider how the 'bright side' is entirely defined by the organizational narrative. How is the network's bright side described in a Wahabi madrasas? Behind the walls of the Vatican?
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