The term Information Warfare may not be the best one to use. It is largely a product of the military and of a military mindset. There is a danger that in using their language and their conceptual frameworks, critical work will adopt their way of thinking as a paradigm. Unfortunately, as there have not been many critical analyses of Information Warfare, there are not many critical or oppositional terms that have been suggested instead. Until a better term appears, Information Warfare will remain. Postmodern Warfare has been suggested as an alternative, but this still may not represent the subject. (Gray forthcoming)

A common theme that runs through the Information Warfare literature is that there are no standardized defining characteristics. John Pike of the Federation of American Scientists stated in an interview that Information Warfare definitions vary depending on the perspectives of people looking at the issue. (Pike 1996) Information Warfare interests the military, the intelligence community, business, and the computer industry, but in different ways. Top brass at the Pentagon, for example, may be inclined to conceive of Information Warfare in terms of electronic battlefield management. While America’s corporate executives will place more emphasis on survivability of data and the threat posed by hackers to financial assets. The London Times reported that “cyber terrorists” had amassed 400 million pounds from financial institutions in London as ransom to prevent hacking into their computer systems. (London Times 1996)

A point of agreement among developers of Information Warfare doctrine is that it has both offensive and defensive properties, meaning that a nation, a corporation, a public institution, or even an individual can engage in Information Warfare from a defensive guarded posture or from an offensive platform of attack. (Evers 1996) The United States’ “war” against Iraq in 1991 is an example of a nation adopting an offensive Information Warfare position. (Campen 1992) While an individual scanning a disk for viruses is an example of a defensive stance.

These two examples illustrate the range of possibilities that fall under this broad category of Information Warfare. On one end of the spectrum is the Gulf War, an extremely complex form of Information Warfare with significant global consequences still felt today, such as illnesses attributed to the Gulf War syndrome. On the other end of spectrum is a simple, almost routine, computer task. The offensive act involves the manipulation of information systems – in the case of the Gulf War, satellites, computers, telecommunication infrastructures, and guided weapons – to gain dominance over an adversary. The defensive act in this example involves the use of computer software to prevent the corruption of files, to prevent the invasion of ones cyber territory.

Information Warfare is concerned with both attaining and maintaining dominance over an adversary and with resisting and fighting against the advances of an enemy. The common factor linking both offensive and defensive Information Warfare is the dependence on microprocessor-based communication and information systems.

This polarity of offensive and defensive Information Warfare is similar to the notion of the dialectic of control raised in the last chapter. The difference is that the conceptualization of defensive and offensive Information Warfare has been made by people with military and corporate points-of-view. While the conceptualization of the dialectic of control has been made by critical scholars and radicals. From military corporate viewpoints, surveillance of international email communication is defensive Information Warfare. (Swett 1995) It can be construed, for example, as part of the State’s ongoing quest against international terrorism. But from the critical perspective of this thesis, this type of monitoring is offensive Information Warfare against people’s freedom to communicate, a form of domination and control through technical means.

It is around this question of who is friend and who is foe, around what is defensive versus what is offensive, that the disjuncture between military corporate conceptions of Information Warfare and critical perspectives on Information Warfare becomes apparent. This disjuncture is a good example why it is dangerous to adopt military corporate terminology and definitions. In the case of Mexico, the United States may believe that it is defending Mexican national security interests when it helps that government militarily against guerrilla groups or drug traffickers. But from the perspective of the Zapatistas, U.S. technological military assistance is an offensive move on the part of the United States and Mexico. What is perceived by one group as defensive Information Warfare is perceived as offensive by another. Those who are called terrorists by some are called freedom fighters by others. This is where Information Warfare is exposed for its ideological dimensions. Who is friend or foe? Who is ally or enemy? Who is a worthy or an unworthy victim? The understandings of friend, ally, and worthy victim in this country are bound up in the ideology of the ruling elites, as has been discussed in Manufacturing Consent. (Herman and Chomsky 1988) The developers of Information Warfare doctrine clearly represent this ruling elite ideology and as such their conceptions about defensive and offensive Information Warfare will be designed to serve and protect status quo elite interests. The point of mentioning all this is to affirm the necessity of not getting confused or thrown off track by military and corporate perspectives embedded in the dominant discourse around Information Warfare.

The next section is a overview of the antecedents to Information Warfare. This is followed by a section that surveys varied definitions of Information Warfare. After this is a brief description of key technologies that enable Information Warfare capability. Finally, the last section returns to critical approaches to Information Warfare.


Military Importance of Communication and Information Technology

The importance of communication to success in warfare probably can be traced back to early pre-agrarian conflicts in which information about the physical location and size of an adversarial force was transmitted by a system of scouts and runners. This non-real-time type of communication persisted in a variety of forms until the invention of the telegraph in 1840. Until then, news from a military front had to reach a military command post via foot, horse, or boat. Commands and directives returning to the front had to be transmitted in the same way. Table 2 lists a chronology of the development of U.S. military communication that begins shortly before the invention of the telegraph and continues through the inventions of the telephone, radio, sonar, radar, and satellite.

The telegraph is an important milestone in the history of communication and war. From that moment forth the time required for communication between command centers and battlefields was greatly reduced. As the telegraph transmitted a coded message along wire, the limitations were proscribed by how far the wires went in to the battlefield and the capabilities of intermediaries who interpreted the code. The telegraph became an important communication tool during the U.S.-Mexico war (1846-1848) and U.S. Civil War. The invention of the telephone in 1875, thirty five years after the telegraph, made direct voice-to-voice communication possible. Again the limitation was the extent of the wired infrastructure, one that was susceptible to attack and destruction. Telegraph and telephone systems were used by the U.S. military during the Spanish-American war beginning in 1898.

After the telegraph and telephone, the use of radio in warfare was the next big event in the history of communication and war. The first wireless communication occurred just outside of Bologna, Italy in 1895. Soon after that the U.S. Navy began installing radios on its warships and along coastal areas. Radio eliminated the need for wired lines and meant that communication could be much more dispersed. But also it meant that anyone with a receiver could intercept the transmissions. Encryption was needed; information security became important. Both wired and wireless communication systems were used during World War I. In the inter-war period between the First and Second World Wars both sonar and radar were developed. Sonar was used by the Navy in 1922 and in 1937 the Navy began installing radar systems on their warships.


Chronology of Military Communication
1776. American warships adopted standardized set of signals. 
1797. U.S. Navy published first American book of signals. 
1802. Navy issued Barron Signal Book.. 
1807. Steamboat introduction expedited Army’s ability to communicate. 
1840. Telegraph invented. 
1843. Morse Code developed. 
1843. Congress authorized $30,000 for Washington-Baltimore telegraph line. 
1847. Navy published Rogers and Black Semaphore Directory. 
1861. Signal school started at outbreak of Civil War at Fortress Monroe, Virginia. 
1861. First demonstration of telegraph line attached to balloon. 
1862. Confederate States Army Signal Corps established. 
1862. First successful transmission of telegraph from balloons in Civil War. 
1863. Union Signal Corps established. 
1863. Thirty telegraph trains in use by Union in Civil War. 
1867. Signal Corps gained control of all Army’s telegraph lines. 
1875. Telephone invented by Alexander G. Bell. 
1880. Signal Corps operated 5,000 miles of telegraph lines. 
1895. First wireless signals communicated near Bologna, Italy. 
1897. First ship-to-shore wireless transmission from Italian warship. 
1898. Army Signal Corps provides telegraph and telephone in Spanish-American War. 
1899. Wireless message transmitted over English Channel. 
1899. French Navy installed radio equipment on a gunboat. 
1899. U.S. Army Signal Corps established radio communications over 12 miles. 
1900. First radio transmission and reception of speech. 
1900. Signal Corps assigned responsibility of communications in Alaska territory. 
1902. U.S. Navy constructed radio stations in Annapolis and Washington. 
1902. Navy established Wireless Telegraph Board. 
1903. Hundred mile radio link incorporated into extensive Alaska wired system. 
1903. Navy equipped 8 major ships with radios and established 5 shore stations. 
1903. Airplane invented by Wilbur and Orville Wright. 
1904. Roosevelt convened Inter-Departmental Board of Wireless Telegraphy. 
1906. Navy published Manual of Wireless Telegraphy for Use of Naval Electricians. 
1906. Signal Corps built first successful portable wireless set 
1906. Introduction of thermonic triode making radio voice transmission practical. 
1907. Aeronautical Division formed within Signal Corps to utilize airplanes. 
1908. Navy established U.S. Navy Radio Laboratory. 
1909. First airplane to meet army specifications. 
1911. Navy issued first radio frequency plan to bring order to radio chaos. 
1912. Navy ordered the word “radio” replace the word “wireless”. 
1912. Utility of radio communication demonstrated in reporting of Titanic sinking. 
1916. Naval Aircraft Radio Laboratory established at Pensacola, Florida. 
1917. Naval communications system broadcast to world U.S. had entered WWI. 
1918. U.S. production of field wire for WWI reached 8,500 miles per month. 
1918. Navy installed first air navigation range. 
1920. Post Office Department began building aeronautical radio stations. 
1922. Licensed commercial radio stations jumped from 80 to 569. 
1922. Sonar first used by Navy. 
1926. Army Air Corps created. 
1927. Congress passed the Radio Act to regulate commercial radio. 
1929. Army Air Corps conducted “blind” aircraft flight using navigation instruments. 
1930. Naval Research Laboratory issued first report on experiments with radar. 
1934. Usefulness of radio communications on B-10 aircraft clearly demonstrated. 
1934. Federal Communications Commission created. 
1936. Navy established the Fleet Sonar School at San Diego to train sonar operators. 
1936. Naval Research Laboratory constructed pulse radar with 25 mile range. 
1937. Two radar sets installed aboard USS Leary. 
1942. Signal Corps awarded contracts for $2.6 billion in communication equipment. 
1947. Transistor invented in Bell labs. 
1954. Air Force installed tropospheric scatter systems. 
1954. First commercial transistor radios available. 
1957. Soviet launched Sputnik 1 satellite. 
1958. U.S. Satellite Signal Communications by Orbiting Relay Equipment launched. 
1959. Signal Corps bounced voice transmissions off the moon. 
1960. First experiments using a satellite for communications with launching of Echo 1. 
1960. Defense Communications Agency (DCA) formed. 
1962. Telestar 1 satellite launched and broadcast television pictures. 
1962. First launch of Relay satellite. 
1962. Congress passed the Communications Satellite Act. 
1963. Communications Satellite Corporation (COMSAT) incorporated. 
1963. DCA assumed control of 5 U.S. continental automatic electric switching centers. 
1963. Telestar 2 satellite launched. 
1964. Syncom III launched, first to reach geosynchronous orbit. 
1964. International Telecommunications Satellite Consortium (Intelsat) established. 
1964. Defense Communication System’s Automatic Voice Network formed. 
1965. Intelsat 1 launched into geosynchronous orbit for transatlantic service. 
1965. Defense Meteorological Satellite Program established. 
1967. Three Intelsat 2 satellites with 240 voice channels placed in orbit. 
1969. Three Intelsat 3 satellites joined others to provide global satellite communication. 
1971. Intelsat 4 launched with more than 6,000 two-way voice channels. 
1973. DoD Joint Chiefs of Staff responsible for military satellite communication. 
1978. Navy’s Fleet Satellite Communication System launched first satellite. 
1979. Air Force Satellite Communication System (AFSATCOM) became operational. 
1981. Institute for Defense Analysis recommended an improved WIN and MILNET.a 
1983. U.S. invasion of Grenada uses all segments of DoD communications systems. 
1989. U.S. invasion of Panama another operational test of communications systems. 
1991. Operation Desert Storm utilized all types of communications. 
  Computer-based weaponry evolved after World War II. Nuclear weapons systems of the Cold War began to rely heavily on computers. Computers provided the military not just with added speed and capability to manage large amounts of battlefield information, but they became important organizational tools for the military hierarchy. Because of the sheer size of the military bureaucracy, computers became indispensable.

A military historian, Van Creveld (1985), wrote that “during the decades after 1945, several factors came together and caused the American armed forces to undergo an unprecedented process of centralization.” One was “the revolutionary explosion of electronic communication and automatic data processing equipment.” The other was “the preoccupation during the 1950s with the need for failproof positive control systems to prevent an accidental outbreak of nuclear war.”

The first satellite was launched by the Soviets in 1957. The United States soon followed with its own satellites. In 1960 the Defense Communications Agency formed to manage U.S. military satellite communications. In the 1960s satellites became central to military intelligence surveillance and communications. The nuclear arms race set the stage for the integration of the most sophisticated communication and information technology with the entire nuclear weapons system. By the time the Reagan administration was pumping millions of dollars into the STARWARS initiative in the early 1980s, computers, satellites, and telecommunications systems had become integral and vital to warfare capability. When the Cold War ended, the U.S. military needed to do something with all the technology it had amassed. The invasion of Grenada in 1983, Panama in 1989, and the Gulf War in 1991 were opportunities to test the sophisticated communications technology that had been developed during the Cold War. At the same time, each of these military ventures fostered greater military control over the press, an industry which alos depends upon electronic information gathering and distribution.

The Military-Informatonal-Complex

As noted increased centralization of U.S. military organization after World War II was driven by the electronic revolution and by a perceived nuclear threat during the Cold War. Computers became essential tools, a necessity for both military and corporate hierarchies. Information processing became fundamental to all aspects of society, what some called an information society. But computers were developed chiefly in a military environment. Military technology and information technology have had a co-dependent, parallel and symbiotic relationship. Information technology has become vital to nearly all aspects of military activity. Conversely, military technology has been the driving force behind the vast majority of information technologies. Massive government, military, and intelligence expenditures have subsidized university and corporate research, development, and innovation in communication and information technologies, thus making these institutions important arms for military technological development. Taken together, these institutions form what can be called the military-informational-complex.

In Who Knows: Information in the Age of the Fortune 500, Schiller (1981) defined the information society, that which has given rise to the military-informational-complex, in terms of a system that serves and meets the needs of super-corporations and the military establishment.

Schiller pointed to the symbiotic relationship between transnational corporations and the military, a relationship in which one would not survive without the other. But Schiller noted that the role the military and the intelligence community has played in developing new information technologies has been hidden or largely unnoticed. This probably would make the notion of the military-informational-complex a suspect term. Again, directing attention to the information society,  in Communication and Information Technologies: Freedom of Choice for Latin America?, Mattlelart and Schmucler (1985) stated that information production, storage, and distribution was “becoming a fundamental element, and is the objective of the new organizational pattern of the political, economic, cultural, and military apparatuses in almost all societies.” (Mattlelart and Schmucler 1985, 4, 5)

This military-informational-complex or military information society has not been limited to the developed north. Mattlelart and Schmucler described how in Latin America in the 1980s computers and communications technologies for systems of control were beginning to be used extensively by the armed forces and police.

The term “military information society” can be attributed to Mosco’s book The Pay-Per Society: Computers and Communication in the Information Age (1989). He  focused specifically on the relationship between the military and the information society, continuing Schiller’s argument that military needs have been central to the development of new communication and information technologies. Mosco countered the idea that the marketplace is where decisions concerning the creation of new technologies are made, stating that the military has on numerous occasions intervened directly in the “free” marketplace to help determine the course of technological development. Mosco concluded that the links and relationships between the emergent information society and the military are so close that he did not see the need to distinguish between them, but rather preferred to show that what has evolved is the creation of a military information society. In Communication of Knowledge in an Information Society, Schiller and Miege (1990) echoed and reaffirmed Mosco’ s thoughts on the military information society. In Seeking Security Through Technological Means, Beardon (1990) also emphasized the relationship of the military to new communication and information technologies using an interesting biological analogy, suggesting that as living organisms respond, grow, and adapt to their environments, so too does technology grow and adapt to its environment. Beardon claimed the military has been the primary environment in which computers and communication technology emerged. As early as 1990 Beardon showed the way toward a future type of warfare almost completely dependent on microprocessor technology. Moreover, these new war forms will incorporate artificial intelligence systems that in some instances will remove people from the battlefield. Computers will help automate battlefields and enable warfare to be managed from secure remote locations. In addition to the military application of computers, U.S. intelligence and security agencies are extremely dependent on computer hardware and software, both for processing internal information about employees, but more importantly for the information collecting and processing at which these organizations excel. Taken together, the military and intelligence needs of the United States government, and the corporate interests which it serves, have helped to create a global networked system of computers and communications. In Electronic Technology, Corporate Strategy, and World Transformation, Estabrooks (1995) focused attention on the Gulf War and “Operation Desert Storm,” stating that it demonstrated “beyond any reasonable doubt” how “technology has transformed all aspects of the art and science of military warfare, from its weapons systems for battlefield management to its command, control and communications systems.” Estabrooks wrote that in the last decade “we have witnessed one of the most remarkable transformations in military warfare in history.” Without referencing the terms cyberwar or other new military terminology, Estabrooks described a near future military scenario that sounds very much like the visions of Information Warfare proponents. Some proponents of Information Warfare refer to the information society as the foundation or bedrock out of which Information Warfare emerged and developed. (Garigue 1996) During the 1980s transformations in the computer and telecommunication sectors gave rise to increasingly networked systems. The information infrastructure built out of fiberoptic, wired, and wireless networks began to merge with high speed and high volume computer systems. These technological changes laid the groundwork for what has been described as a Revolution in Military Affairs, which in turn set the stage for the development of Information Warfare doctrine and strategy. In A Revolution in Warfare, Cohen (1996) of John Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, wrote that: The Pentagon’s 1995 Annual Report to the President and the Congress affirmed the universal role of information technologies to the military mission, and the vulnerabilities of reliance on such technologies, stating that: The Gulf War, again, is considered a turning point, a model of how wars can and will be waged, and an example of this Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA).

In The Future of “Military Affairs”: Revolution or Evolution?, Ritcheson (1996) stated:

In The 21st Century Land Warrior, Roos (1995) showed that the United States is well on its way toward integrating microprocessor-based information technology with its armed forces, even on the level of the foot soldier. Roos wrote about demonstrations conducted in April of 1994 at the Army’s National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California, in which “digitized soldiers” were conducting maneuvers in a “digitized battlefield.” In America’s Information Edge, Nye and Owens (1996) discussed shifts in post Cold War military policy and organization needed in order for the United States to stay abreast of sweeping changes stemming from the information revolution.  The authors contended that “knowledge, more than ever before, is power.” Making an analogy to the term “comparative advantage” they referred to America’s “information advantage” and wrote that “the United States must adjust its defense and foreign policy strategy to reflect its growing comparative advantage in information resources.” They reconceptualized conventional containment theory to produce concepts such as “soft power” referring to the present ability of the United States to “use its information resources to engage China, Russia, and other powerful states in security dialogues to prevent them from becoming hostile.” Finally, they suggested “a revolution in military affairs,” enabled by the confluence of ISR (intelligence collection, surveillance, and reconnaissance), C4I (command, control, communications, computers and intelligence) and precision force (satellite guided weaponry). Together it is a “system of systems that represents a qualitative change in U.S. military capabilities.”

Information Warfare is part of a technical evolution and transformation that has recent roots, but that is also part of a longer continuum of the application of communication and information technologies to warfare.


The term “Information Warfare” has only been coined in the past few years. 1995 was the year when the phrase made it into popular usage. In Onward Cyber Soldier, TIME journalist Waller (1995) concluded that Information Warfare is “now the hottest concept in the halls of the Pentagon” and said that since the Gulf War Information Warfare strategies and techniques have increased in usage:

Although it is a relatively new term, some uses of “Information Warfare” can be traced back to the 1970s. In A World Information War?, Tourtellot (1978) offered one of the earlier definitions of Information Warfare. It differed from current conceptions, referring more to economic aspects of Information Warfare and distinguishing between information “haves” and “have-nots” in a global setting.

It has even been suggested that Information Warfare was practiced during World War II. In the Information and Intelligence Revolution, Riccardelli (1995), a U.S. Army Colonel, referred to an allied invasion of France during World War II, Operation Overlord, as “a classic case study for information warfare campaign employment” and asserted that Information Warfare is not a new concept.

Riccardelli noted that Information Warfare has been described as “battlefield digitization, Army Enterprise Strategy, cyberwar, soft war, electronic combat and many other snappy and image-provoking terms or phrases,” but favored a definition put forth by the National Defense University’s Information Resources Management College.

A “working definition” of Information Warfare recognized in 1993 by the Information Resources Management College stated:

Note that in this definition, developed in 1993, “Information-based” is used rather than simply the word “Information.” This is an indication that the term Information Warfare has only been around for several years.

In Cyberwar is Coming!, Arquilla and Ronfeldt (1993), military scholars at RAND,  introduced two concepts central to Information Warfare theory – cyberwar and netwar. Their work is often cited in the literature of Information Warfare proponents and in the work of the few critics (Brandt, 1995; Cleaver, 1995; Hobo, 1995; Wehling, 1995). Cyberwar “refers to conducting, and preparing to conduct, military operations according to information-related principles” and “trying to know everything about an adversary while keeping the adversary from knowing much about oneself” and “using knowledge so that less capital and labor may have to be expended.” Netwar in their definition is “information-related conflict at a grand level between nations or societies.” Arquilla and Ronfeldt believe netwar “may involve public diplomacy measures, propaganda and psychological campaigns, political and cultural subversion, deception of or interference with local media, infiltration of computer networks and databases, and efforts to promote dissident or opposition movements across computer networks.” (Arquilla and Ronfeldt 1993)

Schwartau (1994), another early figure in the field, in a book called Information Warfare: Chaos on the Electronic Superhighway offered this explanation that places U.S. economic interests as central to U.S. national security:

Schwartau contended that information wars are "inevitable" given "our place in history" and cited as a basis for this inevitability the emergence of cyberspace, which he calls “the battlefield.” His other reasons for the inevitability of information wars included the competition among nation-states in the post Cold War era, the global disparities between the industrialized North and the underdeveloped South, the accessibility of computer technologies to criminal elements, the remoteness and quantity of access points into cyberspace, the low risk involved and the high rewards gained from "hacking”, and the ability of "Information Warriors" to "leverage our inherent fear and distrust of computers.”

In Warfare in the Information Age, Berkowitz (1996), a former CIA analyst, explained the vulnerabilities of an information based economy and the potential target areas in an informational conflict. Berkowitz wrote that:

Berkowitz saw the opportunities for the United States in new military strategies: In What is Information Warfare?, Libicki (1995), of the Institute for National Strategic Studies, listed seven alternative “definitions and taxonomies” of Information Warfare that have emerged over the course of the last several years: Libicki concluded that Information Warfare is “an unfortunate catch-all.” Of these seven conceptions, he stated only three are well established. They are: “C2/EW warfare to break (mostly literally) enemy command systems”; “intelligence-based warfare – operations improved by information systems”; and “psychological operations, to shape the perception of facts.” (Libicki)

In A Theory of Information Warfare: Preparing for 2020, Szafranski (1995), a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force, defined Information Warfare more in terms of an epistemological attack on an adversaries basic belief structures.

In yet another article, simply with the title Information Warfare, Stein (1995), also writing from the perspective of the military, defined Information Warfare in broad terms that includes the necessity of information in diplomacy and economic competition, in addition to military force. Setting its scope more narrowly, a U.S. Air Force fact sheet defined Information Warfare in traditional military terminology as “any action to deny, exploit, corrupt or destroy the enemy’s information and its functions while protecting Air Force assets against those actions and exploiting its own military information operations.” (U.S. Air Force, 1995)

In a research paper at George Washington University, An Introduction to Information Warfare, Haeni (1995) emphasized the lack of standardized definitions. However, Haeni saw the usefulness of Arquilla and Ronfeldt’s two main conceptions, the categories of cyberwar and netwar. As well, from a selection of possible definitions of Information Warfare, Haeni preferred this one:

Haeni claimed this broader definition to be more useful than some Department of Defense definitions that concentrate narrowly on the military aspects of Information Warfare, such as the Air Force definition above and this one here: In Information Warfare In the Information Age, a research paper that surveyed Information Warfare literature, Magsig (1995) also noted that the “concept of information warfare is one that is easy to identify but hard to define.” Magsig concluded that “the primary strategy of information warfare is to achieve information dominance to resolve conflict before it ever begins.”

In Information Warfare: Developing a Conceptual Framework, Garigue (1996) offered a more sweeping explanation of Information Warfare than those put forth by defense agencies. With his definition, corporate espionage or political propaganda may be included. It is not purely a military conception.

In Stopping the Hacking of Cyber Information, Evers (1996) affirmed there still is not a standard definition for Information Warfare, but stated that one area of agreement is that Information Warfare has both defensive and offensive properties. But since warfare generally comprises both defenseive and offensive properties, this agreement should come as no surprise. It is rather obvious. Evers defined offensive Information Warfare in terms of stealing, misleading, falsifying, and destroying information, data, and data dependent weapons systems. Defensive Information Warfare concentrates more on the protection of information of data through encryption and security checks. In Strategic Information Warfare, another RAND publication on Information Warfare, Molander, Riddile, and Wilson (1996) stated there is a common “emerging element of information warfare” that “warrants identification and definition,” which they called “strategic information warfare.” They characterized strategic information warfare as a scenario “wherein nations utilize cyberspace to affect strategic military operations and inflict damage on national information structures.” Their collaborative understanding of Information Warfare is the following: While standardized definitions for Information Warfare are still lacking, there is some agreement about which types of technologies are key to enabling Information Warfare. As mentioned already several times, awareness of the sophisticated military technology used in the Gulf War is a starting point for understanding the technology of the Information Warfare arsenal. The coordination of the Gulf War was made possible by an extensive communication system and the weapons used, such as the satellite guided Stealth bombers, were dependent on advanced computer technology.

Results from research conducted for the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, that was “designed to probe the nature and acquisition impacts of information warfare,” were made available on the school’s web site in the summer of 1996. (Naval Postgraduate School 1996) The research consisted of obtaining commentary from leading figures in the field of Information Warfare on a number of issues ranging from the characteristics of Information Warfare to future technologies and directions for research. Participants in the Naval Postgraduate School’s research included: Al Campen, editor of The First Information War; James Dunnigan, author of Digital Soldiers; Dr. Fred Giessler, National Defense University Information Warfare Course Director; David Gust, US Army Program Executive Officer for Intelligence and Electronic Warfare; Ken King, Digital Equipment Corporation’s Director of External Research Group; Dr. Fred Levien, Chairperson of the Naval Postgraduate School’s Information Warfare Academic Group; Dr. Martin Libicki, National Defense University; Larry Merritt, Air Force Information Warfare Center Technical Director; Dr. David Probst, Concordia University Professor of Computer Science; Winn Schwartau, author of Information Warfare: Chaos on the Electronic Superhighway; Robert Steele, Open Source Solutions. Naval Postgraduate School researchers presented raw transcripts, on their web site, to the question: “What are the current key or enabling technologies of information warfare?” Table 3 is a distilled synthesis of their responses.


Key Technologies Enabling Information Warfare
    • computer capability of all kinds 
    • fast and inexpensive semiconductor chips 
    • massive data storage capacity 
    • widely known operating systems 
    • data search technologies and software robots 
    • modeling and simulation technologies 
    • telecommunication systems of all kinds 
    • fiberoptic, wired, and radio networks 
    • fixed, mobile, satellite infrastructures 
    • high bandwidth transmission 
    • global positioning system technologies 
    • machine-human interfaces
  Source: Drawn from Naval Postgraduate School (1996)
It is with this type of list that it is possible to assess a society’s Information Warfare capability. Obviously, the United States, Japan, and most European countries have, to varying degrees, the technologies in Table 3. But so do more and more “developing” countries in the “Third World”, such as Mexico. Computer and telecommunications infrastructures have been growing on a global level, not just in the northern “developed” countries. Agnew and Corbridge (1996) described a global informtion economcy in which communication and information technologies are central. Clearly Mexico’s computer and telecommunications capabilities are not as advanced as those in the United States. But as we will see in Chapter Three, Mexico has been gaining in the key technologies that enable Information Warfare. At issue in this thesis is the source of that development. A theory is that a major source is the militarization of Mexico through the Drug War.


As noted already, there are few critical approaches to Information Warfare. In the overview of Information Warfare definitions earlier in this chapter, the bulk of the characterizations of Information Warfare were from a military or corporate perspective. This generally has been the case with the development of Information Warfare doctrine and strategy. Critical perspectives on Information Warfare need to be extrapolated from broader critiques of, for example, capitalism, technology, surveillance, or hegemony, as were mentioned in Chapter One. As capitalism is the overarching system of domination, it can be argued that Information Warfare doctrine simply provides capitalists with another strategy for retaining power. As some suggest, technology enables States and others with power to maintain social control and domination. An argument can be constructed that Information Warfare strategy is a logical extension of this technology as domination model. Surveillance systems grew out of capitalist needs for order and control in the factory and out of the needs of disciplinary institutions like prisons and the police. Some argue that now, with the introduction of tools like computers, electronic surveillance has moved us more in the direction of a surveillance society. Information Warfare can be viewed as a consequence or extension of this surveillance society. Finally, where hegemony refers to a State’s ability, through ideology and brute force, to maintain domestic control but also regional and global control, we can see how Information Warfare doctrine, with its emphasis on attaining information dominance over its adversaries, is an important asset in the hegemon’s toolkit.

Critical approaches discussed in Chapter One revealed an idea about a dialectic of control and resistance, with some of its attributes noted in Table 1. Although most of the critical literature showed how technology is central to forces of social control and domination, it was also shown that forces of resistance and liberation were also able to take advantage of technology. This thesis concurs with the perspective that even though technology enables a near totalitarian system of control and domination, this system is not yet seamless and there remain possibilities for resistance. Unlike the preponderance of the Information Warfare literature, written by and for the forces of domination and control, this thesis sees the need to interject the perspective of the forces of resistance and liberation in the overall equation.

As was mentioned earlier in this chapter, Information Warfare proponents have yet to agree on a common definition or characterization, but they do agree that key to an understanding of Information Warfare are its offensive and defensive properties. This is both understandable and perhaps even an obvious conclusion. When has there been a war in which both offensive and defensive considerations were not key? Nevertheless, this is a central thesis to emerging Information Warfare doctrine.


Typology of Offensive and Defensive Information Warfare
Information Warfare 
Information Warfare 
Forces of 
Domination and Control 
Drug War 
Email Surveillance
Forces of 
Resistance and Liberation 
Pro Zapatista Netwar
Juxtaposing the concepts of the forces of control and domination and forces of resistance and liberation with the concepts of offensive and defensive Information Warfare produces the typology shown in Table 4. A good example of the forces of domination and control engaged in offensive Information Warfare is the Drug War. Both domestic and international law enforcement efforts have incorporated sophisticated technologies in the pursuit of drug growers and traffickers. This point, with respect to the militarization of Mexico, will be elaborated in Chapter Three. A clear domestic example is northern California’s CAMP, the Campaign Against Marijuana Production. Using infrared aerial surveillance, law enforcement agencies in northern California’s marijuana production centers identify marijuana fields and take offensive action against growers.

An example of the forces of domination and control engaged in defensive Information Warfare is surveillance of international email communication. Strategic Assessment: The Internet, an analysis produced by the Pentagon’s Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, referred specifically to pro Zapatista Internet usage and recommended monitoring domestic and international Internet traffic for “early warning of impending significant developments.” (Swett, 1995) Describing this document, an article in The Nation stated it “is not the first of its kind. Under the rubric of ‘information warfare,’ other Pentagon outfits and military contractors have studied how to use computer networks to collect public information, disseminate propaganda, politically destabilize other governments, and plant computer viruses into the information systems of foes.” (Corn, 1996) Although some might consider this sort of monitoring and surveillance an offensive move, the Pentagon categorizes this activity as defensive, since it is concerned with “defending” national security interests. This suggests a somewhat ambiguous distinction between offensive and defensive Information Warfare. But given that this distinction is one of the main points of agreement in emerging Information Warfare doctrine, it will not be disputed.

An example of the forces of resistance and liberation engaged in offensive Information Warfare is pro Zapatista netwar. The Advent of Netwar, yet another RAND publication on the subject, described this phenomena.

Strategic Information Warfare also referred to pro Zapatista Internet use, calling those who collect, analyze and distribute information related to the struggles in Chiapas “IW agents” who engage in “perception management techniques.” (Molander, Riddile, and Wilson 1996) This RAND document posits a wargame scenario that the researchers considered which projected a second Mexican revolution “circa 1998” in which “the Mexican revolutionary movements and nongovernmental organization (NGO) allies in North America make extensive use of perception management techniques designed to dissuade the United States government from taking any forceful political, economic, or military action to shore up the beleaguered Mexican regime.” (Molander, Riddile, and Wilson 1996)

Finally, an example of the forces of resistance and liberation engaged in defensive Information Warfare is the use of encryption technology. To elude surveillance of international email, so-called perception managers or netwarriors will have to either restrict or customize their language so as to not signal the interest of monitoring agencies or they will have to resort to encryption techniques that make surveillance much more difficult if not impossible. There is disagreement about the desirablity of encryption technology.

Although difficult to substantiate conclusively, this thesis sees a relationship between the militarization of the Drug War in Mexico – the forces of control and domination engaging in offensive Information Warfare –  and the pro Zapatista use of the Net – the forces of resistance and liberation engaging in offensive Information Warfare. Perhaps this can even be described as a dialectical relationship. The logic of this understanding is as follows. The Zapatistas and their supporters have been very successful in utilizing Internet technology. This usage, because it has inspired global publicity and solidarity, has been critical to inhibiting the Mexican government in taking stronger military moves against Zapatista strongholds in Chiapas. The Mexican government, and its allies in the United States, realized that the Zapatistas had the upper hand in Information Warfare praxis. It realized that it needed to develop and strengthen its own Information Warfare capability in order to better combat and attain information dominance over its adversaries, the EZLN and their supporters in civil society. The Mexican government knew that it could rely on the United States for support in attaining greater Information Warfare capability, but also knew that public knowledge about U.S. military assistance directed against the Zapatistas would be disastrous. Since the Drug War had already been a vehicle for justifying greater militarization of Mexico, even before the emergence of the Zapatistas, the Drug War was an obvious route for further assistance and support from the United States. Obviously, it is easier to generate support for campaigns against horrid drug traffickers than it is for campaigns against poverty stricken peasants lead by a pipe smoking charming gentleman.

While this above scenario is hypothetical, perhaps it is not too far off from reality. The level of attention that drugs in Mexico has received in recent times has grown rapidly. An analysis of the New York Times might reveal a significant increase in the number articles on the Drug War parallels a tapering off of articles about the Zapatistas since the January 1, 1994 uprising. This thesis is not conducting such an analysis, but it is examining the role the Drug War has had in militarizing Mexico, and in specifically aiding Mexico in its Information Warfare capability. The next chapter will focus on this concern. It will look at what is illustrated in part of Table 4, the Drug War as an example of the forces of control and domination engaging in offensive Information Warfare.