[Documents menu] Documents menu
Message-ID: <Version.32.19990217233704.00e2f810@icarus.cc.uic.edu>
Date: Wed, 17 Feb 1999 23:55:15 -0800
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YorkU.CA>
From: Kim Scipes <sscipe1@ICARUS.CC.UIC.EDU>
Subject: FWD: E-mail & social struggle

Date: Sun, 14 Feb 1999 14:38:13 (CST)
Subject: CHIAPAS: US Army Frets over New Forms of Social Struggle

/** headlines: 142.0 **/
** Topic: CHIAPAS: New Forms of Social Struggle, Says U.S.A. Army **
** Written 7:08 PM Feb 12 1999 by newsdesk in cdp:headlines **
/* Written 4:12 PM Feb 11 1999 by moonlight@igc.org in indig.info */
/* ---------- "New Ways of Social Struggle" ---------- */

US Army Frets over New Forms of Social Struggle

Mexico, A Laboratory of the "War of Networks"

Jim Cason and David Broooks, correspondants, Washington, Nuevo Amancer Press, February 5
Translated by Rosalva Bermudez-Ballin, La Jornada
Saturday, February 6, 1999

The Zapatista rebels inaugurated a new form of social struggle that shook the foundations of the Mexican political system and has implications in the future for the strategists of National Security from the United States at the international level. This is maintained in a study preared by the army of this country published this week.

According to the investigation, Mexico is the laboratory of a new type of conflict that is managed through the articulation of local and transnational networks, and which uses the technology of the age of computers to promote its objectives. Its authors define this as a new dimension of strategic studies: the "War of Networks" or NetWar.

That model was introduced by the EZLN and it represents a new challenge for those in charge of the policies regarding national security, both in Mexico, the United States and the rest of the world.

"According to conventional mediators, the EZLN has never had much in the order of battle equipment, only a mixture of weird weapons and a few formations combat size", argued David Ronfeldt and his coauthors in their book published by Rand Corporation. However, in the Zapatista 'Social Netwar' in Mexico, they claim that the EZLN "has shaken the foundations of the Mexican political system, by creating extraordinary pressures in favor of democratic reforms and raising the spectrum of instability of the neighbor on the side of America".

Links with the NGOs

In the 168-page study they begin by describing the uprising in Chiapas, focusing on the EZLN's links with the media and the local and transnational NGOs. "The NGOs were able to form trans-border coalitions that were highly interconnected and coordinated to create a social netwar in the age of computers that would limit the Mexican government and would support the EZLN's cause."

The "netwar" concept which Ronfeldt concedes is part of the EZLN's strategy is defined as the development of the social struggle through a scheme of networks, or "network war". That, according to the expert on strategic and military matters regarding Mexico, is what gives a particular definition to the EZLN's struggle and what distinguishes it from a classic guerrilla insurgency.

That new type of conflict depends, to a great extent, on the technological changes in communication, and in particular on the information exchange through the Internet network. "While the 'information operations' were put in foreground, the insurgents decentralized their organization even more and deemphasized combat operations in order to obtain firmer links with the NGOs", the authors point out.

They maintain that the Zapatistas dominated the political debate in Mexico for two years using that type of strategy, and they offer a detailed analysis of the links between th EZLN and local and international NGOs, as well as of the use of the new technology to spread out the information about the conflict.

The Mexican government's response was to try to change the focus: from a fight against the guerrilla movement to how to face a social network war. The Center of National Security Investigations (CISEN) of the Department of the Interior established a group of interagencies to coordinate the efforts of various government offices, but it only had limited success.

"There has been a constant tension and an interplay, on the one hand, in dealing with the Zapatista movement as a social networks' war in the computer age, and on the other, wishing to treat it as insurgency", the researchers argue.

"Mexican military personnel and the NGOs are the powers that frame that conflict", they say. But according to those Rand experts, in their investigation which was ordered by the U.S. Army, those actors also present a problem for the U.S.'s wider political objectives. "Neither the State, nor the NGOs, who include many leftists and center-leftists, seem to favor Mexico's transition to an open market economy", they claim.

The authors argue that the Zapatista network "seems to be beyond its highest point", although they advise that the conflict has not ended and it could reactivate. The study suggests that Mexico is now at "the stage of more network wars" than any other society in a similar stage of development.

"The potential risk in a more serious future for Mexico is not a civil war of antiquity, or another social revolution--that type of situation is not very probable. The greatest risk is a plethora of social network, guerilla and criminal wars. Mexico's security (or insecurity) in the computer age could be, increasingly, a function of network wars of all types."

However, the authors consider that it is very unlikely that those factors can provoke a greater instability in Mexico in the short run. Nevertheless, they propose that the military men of the U.S. ought to adopt a policy of "cautious opening" towards their Mexican counterparts, and they warn that a very close relationship with military personnel in Mexico could implicate

them in strong-arm policies and strategies in Mexico.

Military and Strategic Worry

An important point in all that, for Ronfeldt and his colleagues, is that the Chiapas conflict has implications for the military strategy of the U.S. in general. "Why does that matter to the U.S. Army?", they ask. "To a great extent, it matters because the world is changing in ways that could have more of a probability of showing more network wars than traditionl insurgency wars in many Nation States that are allied, or are of interest, to the United States.

The authors maintain that the U.S. military must center its attention in the activities of the NGOs and Internet communication.

"The NGOs of global civil society, whose focus is more informative than economic, political or military, could end up being more powerful as political and strategic instruments in the computer age", they conclude.

The text of the study is available in the Internet: http://www.rand.org/publications/MR/MR994/MR994.pdf/

NUEVO AMANECER PRESS - N.A.P. To know about us visit: http://www.nap.cuhm.mx/nap0.htm (spanish)

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107,this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest. This information is for non-profit research and education purposes only. ** We encourage you to reproduce this information but please give credit to the source, translator and publication. Thank you. ** General Director:Roger Maldonado-Mexico Director Europe: Darrin Wood-Spain Advisor and Special Correspondent:Guillermo Michel-Mexico. NAP Coordination:Susana Saravia

[World History Archives]     [Gateway to World History]     [Images from World History]     [Hartford Web Publishing]