First Mention of 5GW – Mike Alexander and Netwar

Sunday, January 05, 2003

Mike Alexander is one of the leading writers on the nature of cycles. Here is his seminal work on the Cycles of War
6:20:37 PM   comment [// 0]

Here is an excellent review of what we will be facing in Netwar. We can also think about this type of threat in business as well.

“To be precise, the term netwar refers to an emerging mode of conflict (and crime) at societal levels, short of traditional military warfare, in which the protagonists use network forms of organization and related doctrines, strategies, and technologies attuned to the information age. These protagonists are likely to consist of dispersed organizations, small groups, and individuals who communicate, coordinate, and conduct their campaigns in an internetted manner, often without a central command. Thus, netwar differs from modes of conflict and crime in which the protagonists prefer to develop large, formal, stand-alone, hierarchical organizations, doctrines, and strategies as in past efforts, for example, to build centralized movements along Leninist lines. Thus, for example, netwar is about the Zapatistas more than the Fidelistas, Hamas more than the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the American Christian Patriot movement more than the Ku Klux Klan, and the Asian Triads more than the Cosa Nostra [8].

The term netwar is meant to call attention to the prospect that network-based conflict and crime will become major phenomena in the decades ahead. Various actors across the spectrum are already evolving in this direction. This includes familiar adversaries who are modifying their structures and strategies to take advantage of networked designs – e.g., transnational terrorist groups, black-market proliferators of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), drug and other crime syndicates, fundamentalist and ethnonationalist movements, intellectual property pirates, and immigration and refugee smugglers. Some urban gangs, back-country militias, and militant single-issue groups in the United States and elsewhere have also developed netwar-like attributes. The netwar spectrum also includes a new generation of social revolutionaries, radicals, and activists who are beginning to create information-age ideologies, in which identities and loyalties may shift from the nation state to the transnational level of “global civil society.” New kinds of actors, such as anarchistic and nihilistic leagues of computer-hacking “cyboteurs,” may also engage in netwar.

Many – if not most – netwar actors will be nonstate, even stateless. Some may be agents of a state, but others may try to turn states into their agents. Also, a netwar actor may be both subnational and transnational in scope. Odd hybrids and symbioses are likely. Furthermore, some bad actors (e.g., terrorist and criminal groups) may threaten U.S. and other nations’ interests, but other actors (e.g., NGO activists in Burma or Mexico) may not – indeed, some actors who at times turn to netwar strategies and tactics, such as the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), may have salutary liberalizing effects. In fact, many militant yet mainly peaceable social netwars are being waged around the world by democratic opponents of authoritarian regimes and by protestors against various risky government and corporate policies – and many of these people may well be agents of positive change, even though in some cases their ideas and actions may seem contrary to particular U.S. interests and policies. Finally, some netwar actors may aim at destruction, but more may aim mainly at disruption and disorientation [9]. Again, many variations are possible. The September terror attacks in New York and the Washington, D.C. area, for example, feature a mix of physical destruction and economic disruption.”


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