If you’re still wondering how the Information Age is going to change conflict, go ahead and close out of this tab. Apparently you’ve been sleeping next to Rip Van Winkle while drones have been eating AQ’s lunch, the Stuxnet worm crapped in Iran’s nuclear serial, and the Arab world is getting the most of out of their anytime minutes.
The revolution has begun, and it is being Skyped, Tweeted, livestreamed, blogged, Facebooked, BBMed and broadcast/coordinated across whatever the next revolution in new media is too. I, for one, am confident that the next edition of Angry Birds will actually allow users to lob these at their least favorite pig-like autocrat. Indeed, politics and insurgency are just the latest adopters of crowd-sourcing, but the potential in these arenas is nothing less than paradigm shifting.
For those of you who are not conflict nerds (as I aspire to be), the historical paradigm for these types of conflict goes like this: Some element of society is unhappy with the status quo. Their grievances with the powers that be are severe enough that they feel revolution is the only answer. Without legitimate (read: peaceful) means to effect change they resort to political violence, more commonly known as “terrorism.” If these individuals are not outright squashed by the state at the beginning of their resistance, there is a good chance that the state loses some legitimacy and an insurgency will be born. Now, the state is at civil war, and trends in the post-war era (WWII and after) show that these conflicts tend to last a while.
Ultimately the staying power of an entrenched government normally prevails, especially with outside assistance. The rebels will run out of money, guns, and most importantly, popular support. Sadly enough, people often will trade a little liberty for security, and 10 years of death squads and market bombings have a funny way of making the junta look not-so-bad.
Herein lies the reason that these latest revolutions are such a big deal. Communication and intelligence are both extremely important in conflict, arguably more so than guns & money, and these technologies make each more fluid and accessible to the novice insurgent. But the real revolution is in the popular support that these mediums can quickly gather and cost-effectively sustain. As untrained, lightly equipped, yet networked, rebels increase their ability to maneuver, learn the intricacies of their enemy’s tactics and materiel, and recruit support both at home and abroad, they begin to bring some parity to otherwise very asymmetric conflicts.
Years from now the conflicts of the Arab Spring, and the technologies that influenced them, may be outliers. However, this guy thinks that like everything else, our increasing interconnectedness will change conflict too. If you think I’m wrong, or if you think I’m right, or even if you just want to call me funny names, let me know in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!