Swarming and the future of conflict
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This documented briefing continues the elaboration of our ideas about how the information revolution is affecting the whole spectrum of conflict. Our notion of cyberwar (1993) focused on the military domain, while our study on netwar (1996) examined irregular modes of conflict, including terror, crime, and militant social activism. Here we advance the idea that swarming may emerge as a definitive doctrine that will encompass and enliven both cyberwar and netwar. This doctrinal proposal relates to our efforts to flesh out a four-part vision of how to prepare for information-age conflict (see Arquilla and Ronfeldt, 1997, Ch. 19). We have argued, first of all, for adopting a broad concept of “information”—so that it is defined as something that refers not only to communications media and the messages transmitted, but also to the increasingly material “information content” of all things, including weapons and other sorts of systems. The next part of our vision focused on the organizational dimension, emphasizing that the information revolution empowers the network form—undermining most hierarchies. Moving on to the third part, we then exposited our ideas about developing an American grand strategy based on “guarded openness”—a principle that, for example, encourages reaching out widely with ideas about freedom and progress, while still being circumspect about diffusion of advanced information processes and technologies. In this document, we complete our four-part vision by articulating a doctrine we call “swarming,” and which we believe may eventually apply across the entire spectrum of conflict—from low to high intensity, and from civic-oriented actions to military combat operations on land, at sea, and in the air.
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