Netwar - Examples


The following are several examples used to support the argument that there is in fact an emergent netwar.

  • Terrorism

Terrorist groups, in the Middle East especially, seem to be adopting flexible, decentralized network structures as part of a shift away from “formally organized, state-sponsored groups to privately financed, loose networks of individuals and subgroups that may have strategic guidance but that, nonetheless, enjoy tactical independence”.

Past terrorist groups did incorporate autonomous cells, but they were largely coordinated in a non-networked manner. Newer terrorist movements, such as al-Qaeda employ less hierarchical, loosely interlinked organizational models. Rather than the rigid bureaucratic structures and nationalist agendas of old terror groups, these new operatives are networked, relying on decentralized decision making with flexible ties between other individuals and radical groups sharing common values.

  • Zapatistas

The Zapatista movement began as a seemingly traditional, hierarchical insurgency, but was transformed into an information-age conflict. It has benefited from a diverse network of actors, made up of indigenous communities, non-indigenous middle-class guerilla leaders, and a range of local and transnational NGOs sympathetic to the Zapatista cause. Numerous transnational NGOs networked with local Mexican NGOs that were involved with the marginalized indigenous community and the Zapatista guerillas.

Following setbacks in battle, the guerillas switched tactics and began to exploit the network form, taking advantage of the NGOs connections to mobilize global awareness and support for their reform movement, while putting pressure on the Mexican government. These diverse groups of activists and issue organizations were united by common values and shared goals. The internet, which was in its infancy at the time, also became a key space for networking various groups from around the globe with the Zapatista movement.

  • Transnational Criminal Organizations

Transnational Criminal organizations (TCOs) are empowered by the network form in the sense that it heightens their mobility, adaptability, and their ability to operate transnationally. These transnational networks pose a problem for states operating in a conventional, inwardly focused manner. For instance, cartels in Colombia draw power from their extended transnational network resources, making it difficult for the Colombian government to fight the cartels within the confines of its national boundaries. Thus, networking allows TCOs to easily operate across jurisdictions, evading national law enforcement agencies. Networks also make it more difficult to dismantle a criminal operation, given that there is less emphasis on rigid, central leadership.

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