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The information revolution--which is as much an organizational as a technological revolution--is transforming the nature of conflict across the spectrum: from open warfare, to terrorism, crime, and even radical social activism. The era of massed field armies is passing, because the new information and communications systems are increasing the lethality of quite small units that can call in deadly, precise missile fire almost anywhere, anytime. In social conflicts, the Internet and other media are greatly empowering individuals and small groups to influence the behavior of states. Whether in military or social conflicts, all protagonists will soon be developing new doctrines, strategies, and tactics for swarming their opponents--with weapons or words, as circumstances require. Preparing for conflict in such a world will require shifting to new forms of organization, particularly the versatile, hardy, all-channel network. This shift will prove difficult for states and professional militaries that remain bastions of hierarchy, bound to resist institutional redesign. They will make the shift as they realize that information and knowledge are becoming the key elements of power. This implies, among other things, that Mars, the old brute-force god of war, must give way to Athena, the well-armed goddess of wisdom. Accepting Athena as the patroness of this information age represents a first step not only for preparing for future conflicts, but also for preventing them.
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We have been posing our ideas about conflict in the information agefor some years now, beginning in 1991 with our original ruminationsabout cyberwar, then about netwar, and lately about informationstrategy. With each step, we have kept returning to a favorite set ofthemes organization is as crucial as technology in understandingthe information revolution; this revolution is giving rise to networkforms of organization; and the rise of networks will continue to accruepower to nonstate actors, more than to states, until states adaptby learning to remold their hierarchies into hybrids that incorporatenetwork design elements. Meanwhile, we have kept our eyes onemerging trends in conflict from the end of the Persian Gulf War,through recent developments in places like Chechnya and Chiapas to further our understanding that the context and conduct of conflictis changing from one end of the spectrum to the other.New modes of war, terrorism, crime, and even radical activism areall these emerging from similar information-age dynamics? If so,what is the best preparation for responding to such modes? Whenthe subject is warfare, for example, it is common wisdom that militariestend to prepare for the last war, and there is much historicalevidence to support this notion. Today, however, it is clear that defenseestablishments around the world and especially in the UnitedStates are thinking about how war will change, how the revolutionin military affairs (RMA) will unfold, and how the next war may wellbe quite different from the last. Whether the focus is warfare, terrorism,crime, or social conflict, we have striven to anticipate what thespectrum of future wars and other types of conflicts will look like. If our approach proves correct, then perhaps this volume can help defense planners prepare for the next war instead of the last. We hope that our own and our contributors' views are largely correct, and that our collective insights will prove useful to those, both civilians and military personnel, who are entrusted with developing and implementing national security strategy. We also hope that the studies in this volume are clear and compelling enough to attract a broad, general readership, since, without greater public understanding and support, all efforts to prepare effectively for conflict in the information age could go astray. The preparation of this volume has been supported by RAND and by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence) and was carried out in the Acquisition Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, and the defense agencies.About the Author:
A Consultant in RAND's Santa Monica, California
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