Networks, netwars and the fight for the future


  • David Ronfeldt
  • John Arquilla



Netwar is an emerging mode of conflict in which the protagonists - ranging from terrorist and criminal organizations on the dark side, to militant social activists on the bright side - use network forms of organization, doctrine, strategy, and technology attuned to the information age. The practice of netwar is well ahead of theory, as both civil and uncivil society actors are increasingly engaging in this new way of fighting. We suggest how the theory of netwar may be improved by drawing on academic perspectives on networks, especially those about organizational network analysis. As for practice, strategists and policymakers in Washington and elsewhere have begun to discern the dark side of the network phenomenon - especially in the wake of the "attack on America" perpetrated apparently by Osama bin Laden's terror network. But they still have much work to do to begin harnessing the bright side, by formulating strategies that will enable state and civil-society actors to work together better. This paper is largely drawn (with updates added) from Chapter 10 of our forthcoming book, Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime, and Militancy (RAND, 2001), which will also be available online soon at




How to Cite

Ronfeldt, D., & Arquilla, J. (2001). Networks, netwars and the fight for the future. First Monday, 6(10).