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Terror and Its Antidote

John Arquilla believes the key to fighting todayís battles is to use the network tactics of terrorists.

After years of lamenting his generalsí inability to “face the arithmetic” of a war of attrition, Abraham Lincoln found the right man in Ulysses S. Grant. General Grantís victory over General Robert E. Leeís Army of Northern Virginia established sheer power as the American way of war, and for generations the U.S. military would lumber off to battle, often after initial setbacks and lengthy regrouping, to win through logistical miracles and overwhelming firepower.

John Arquilla; Copyright © 2003 Acumen Sciences, LLC, All Rights Reserved.

It was a model for the industrial age and long due for change, says John Arquilla, a professor of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, who holds a Ph.D. in international relations from Stanford University and is the author of a shelfload of books. Dr. Arquilla is perhaps the most influential military theorist alive: the recent campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq bear his fingerprints. He preaches an anti-Grant, information-age doctrine that sneers at hierarchy and the chain of command and elevates small groups of soldiers, looped into ad hoc networks by electronic intelligence grids, to the status of a strategic model that he terms “netwar.”

“The Industrial Revolution put mass on the battlefield, but the story now isnít about mass, itís about precision,” he says. “Weíre able to take a small unit of special forces and give them the hitting power of a World War II tank army.” So, of course, can the countryís enemies, as al Qaeda demonstrated all too well on September 11th, 2001, when it attacked New York City and Washington, D.C.

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