Fighting networks the defining challenge of irregular warfare
Dean, Arleigh William
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This study examines how networks fight, and how to counter networks. Networks, empowered by information technology, play a powerful role in many different aspects of social and organizational interaction. Notably, recent confrontations with networked opponents have strained the U.S. military, and produced time-intensive, brutally complex, and costly irregular warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan. The challenges that these fighting networks present require a close examination of how they fight, and most importantly, how to combat the threat they pose. The primary purpose of this study is to examine the role of networks in irregular warfare, where they are central and prevalent. Regardless of its many forms, the most salient aspect of modern irregular warfare is the increasingly networked nature of the antagonists. Countering these opponents requires a detailed understanding of the organization, doctrine, methods, and information usage, which both empower networks and generate vulnerabilities. This research generated a theoretical framework that draws on the rich bodies of knowledge that inform network theory, network-based operations, irregular warfare, organizational theory, and information strategy. Each of these theoretical areas provided hypotheses for identifying causal factors, which led to an understanding of how networks fight, and development of a systematic framework for countering them. Comparative case studies focused on a cluster of networks engaged in irregular warfare, which served to test this framework. This cluster consists of three cases, each marked by tough opponents, II and network-based organizations operating in the information age: the Chechen separatists, Lebanese Hezbollah, and Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Overall, this thesis advances theory in a way that provides a systematic understanding of how to counter networked opponents, while generating additional perspective about irregular warfare.
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