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 firstname.lastname@example.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
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
"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
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:
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