Download eBook for Free

FormatFile SizeNotes
PDF file 0.1 MB

Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 10 or higher for the best experience.

The information revolution and related organizational innovations are altering the nature of conflict and the kinds of military structures, doctrines, and strategies that will be needed. This study introduces two concepts for thinking about these issues: cyberwar and netwar. Industrialization led to attritional warfare by massive armies (e.g., World War I). Mechanization led to maneuver predominated by tanks (e.g., World War II). The information revolution implies the rise of cyberwar, in which neither mass nor mobility will decide outcomes; instead, the side that knows more, that can disperse the fog of war yet enshroud an adversary in it, will enjoy decisive advantages. Communications and intelligence have always been important. At a minimum, cyberwar implies that they will grow more so, and will develop as adjuncts to overall military strategy. In this sense, it resembles existing notions of “information war” that emphasize C3I. However, the information revolution may imply overarching effects that necessitate substantial modifications to military organization and force posture. Cyberwar may be to the 21st Century what blitzkrieg was to the 20th. It may also provide a way for the U.S. military to increase “punch” with less “paunch.” Whereas cyberwar refers to knowledge-related conflict at the military level, netwar applies to societal struggles most often associated with low intensity conflict by non-state actors, such as terrorists, drug cartels, or black market proliferators of weapons of mass destruction. Both concepts imply that future conflicts will be fought more by “networks” than by “hierarchies,” and that whoever masters the network form will gain major advantages.

Reprinted as Chapter Two in John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt, eds., In Athena’s Camp: Preparing for Conflict in the Information Age, RAND/MR-880-OSD/RC (1997).

Originally published in: Comparative Strategy, Vol. 12, No. 2, Spring 1993, pp. 141-165.

This report is part of the RAND reprint series. The Reprint was a product of RAND from 1992 to 2011 that represented previously published journal articles, book chapters, and reports with the permission of the publisher. RAND reprints were formally reviewed in accordance with the publisher's editorial policy and compliant with RAND's rigorous quality assurance standards for quality and objectivity. For select current RAND journal articles, see External Publications.

This document and trademark(s) contained herein are protected by law. This representation of RAND intellectual property is provided for noncommercial use only. Unauthorized posting of this publication online is prohibited; linking directly to this product page is encouraged. Permission is required from RAND to reproduce, or reuse in another form, any of its research documents for commercial purposes. For information on reprint and reuse permissions, please visit

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.