Saturday, December 03, 2005

Reading :: Advent of Netwar

Originally posted: Sat, 03 Dec 2005 01:31:37

Advent of Netwar

by John Arquilla, David Ronfeldt

This RAND report precedes the authors' Networks and Netwars and outlines much of what the authors discuss in their chapters from that volume, but in greater detail. What they discuss is, again, fascinating. In their estimation, netwar entails the blurring of offense and defense, spatial boundaries, jurisdictions, and all sorts of distinctions (p.13). This blurring has to do with the newness of networks as an organizational design (as opposed to social networks) (p.19). The networked form, they say, follows other forms ? tribal, institutional, and market ? and although it is not completely new, it is newly enabled by pervasive information technologies (p.33).

In networks, members collaborate heterarchically:

Its key principle is heterarchic collaboration among members who may be dispersed among multiple, often small organizations. Network designs have existed throughout history, but multiorganizational designs are now able to gain strength and mature because the new communications technologies allow small, autonomous, dispersed groups to coordinate and act jointly across great distances as never before. (p.33)

The authors follow this up with a nice tabular comparison of tribes, institutions, markets, and networks. This table compares key areas, realms, interests, values, risks, and so forth; one thing that caught my eye was the structural comparison of space, time, and action. The authors argue that power is migrating to actors who are skilled at developing networks (p.43) and that networks may lead nation-states to become leaner and work in concert with nonstate actors (p.45). Think in terms of Rumsfeld's "leaner" military, with its precision strikes, emphasis on communications technologies, and heavy use of non-governmental organizations and subcontractors.

In netwar, the authors argue, the targets should be information-rich components: for instance, don't eradicate smugglers' drug crops, target their electronic bank transfers (p.90). The tactics of netwar are oriented not toward destroying assets but toward disrupting communication and coordination.

The authors conclude that netwar is less like Clausewitz and more like Sun Tzu, less like chess and more like Go. Sun Tzu, they argue, understood the importance of information dominance to victory (p.101). >

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