Cover: Networks and Netwars

Networks and Netwars

The Future of Terror, Crime, and Militancy

Published 2001

Edited by John Arquilla, David Ronfeldt


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The concepts of cyberwar and netwar encompass a new spectrum of conflict that is emerging in the wake of the information revolution. Netwar includes conflicts waged, on the one hand, by terrorists, criminals, gangs, and ethnic extremists; and by civil-society activists (such as cyber activists or WTO protestors) on the other. What distinguishes netwar is the networked organizational structure of its practitioners — with many groups actually being leaderless — and their quickness in coming together in swarming attacks. To confront this new type of conflict, it is crucial for governments, military, and law enforcement to begin networking themselves.

"The first impression this book makes on the casual reader is that it is a timely publication of great topical interest. The attacks of Sept 11 on the World Trade Center and Pentagon have generated interest throughout the world in the way networked technologies are affecting the waging of conflicts around our globe, be they ideological or military. The fact that the writing of the papers preceded the attacks of last September does not diminish their timeliness; on the contrary, these events throw many of the points discussed into relief… [This book is] a comprehensive and well-structured volume that manages to cover many, if not all, aspects of the subject at hand."

- International Journal of Law and Information Technology

"The book is an important contribution to an ongoing dialogue about the nature of non-state actors operating via 'netwars'. In that sense, it is valuable in terms for its implications for the current war on terrorism as well as a potential guide for future state/non-state interactions. It makes the reader more actively consider the future of the state and its ability to meet its obligations in the years to come."

- Terrorism and Political Violence

"Networks and Netwars offers not only a compelling explanation of why organizations such as al Qaeda are so difficult to defeat, but also unusual insight into how government may seek to prevent attacks such as happened on Sept. 11."

- San Francisco Examiner

"This is an interesting and important book on a fascinating subject… All of this is interesting descriptive material, and much of it is clearly written and well organized… Recommended for military and Internet collections. Upper-division undergraduates and above."

- CHOICE Magazine

"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…"

- Army Magazine

"…A useful collection of pieces on how contemporary communications shape nontraditional forms of warfare. The essays include chapters on the tactics of anti-World Trade Organization protesters during the riots in Seattle in 1999; the Internet and international crime; 'hacktivism' (the convergence of hacking with activism); and the rise of what the authors term 'netwar'. Before September 11, readers might have been naturally inclined to pooh-pooh such talk of loose networks of terrorists, criminals, and militant subversives. But the peculiar structure of al-Qaeda vindicates much of the argument here--as the editors point out in a postscript written shortly after the terrorist attacks."

- Foreign Affairs

"…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."

- King Features Weekly Service

"Arquilla and Ronfeldt are a rare breed: strategic thinkers of the information age. In Networks and Netwars they grasp an emerging reality still lost on those preoccupied with the geostrategic balance of power: War in the future will be waged by leaderless networks that can come together quickly out of cyberspace to 'swarm' an opponent. Like few others, they recognize that the flipside of the celebrated global civil society born of the Internet is the 'uncivil society' of terrorists and criminals who will use the same means to spread havoc and instability."

- Nathan Gardels, editor, New Perspectives Quarterly, and author of The Changing Global Order

"Rushing into an increasingly complex world, we need ways to probe the road ahead, to find the quicksand and pitfalls before falling in. Arquilla and Ronfeldt have taken on this hard task, searching for technological threats to a society that has grown reliant on data-based infrastructure. In this collection of cogent articles, by experts in the field of Netwar, they clarify some of the dangers that await us - and reveal possible ways to avoid them."

- David Brin, author of The Postman, Earth, and The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force Us to Choose Between Freedom and Privacy?

"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."

- U.S. News & World Report

"Two RAND analysts continue their leading-edge thinking on Networks and Netwars… Couldn't be more timely."

- Future Survey

"'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…"


"For the better part of a decade, John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt have been arguing that non-governmental organisations utilising network forms of organisation are emerging as the key competitors to nation states and other hierarchically organised power centres in the post-modern information age. On 11 September 2001, they received an unwanted but nonetheless dramatic endorsement of their view that netwar is the most serious security challenge facing the United States and its allies. Largely written before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, their latest anthology exposes the essential elements of netwar doctrine and enabling technology that allowed al-Qaeda to exploit the vulnerabilities of a military and economic superpower by asymmetrical means."

- Survival

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