Following a comprehensive thesis summary are sections concluding that the Drug War is both a replacement for the Cold War and a new form of Information Warfare. A discussion of new war forms and how they may be used in high-tech low intensity conflicts (HTLIC) follows, as well as discussion about resistance in such a cybernetic environment.
The Introduction posed the question: to what extent is the United States, under the umbrella of the Drug War, helping the Mexican government develop Information Warfare capability? And, it raised further questions about the significance of this capability for resistance movements in Mexico like the Zapatistas. A hypothesis presented in the Introduction was that the Drug War is a convenient means for the United States to transfer military equipment, advice, and training to Mexico that can be used for purposes beyond drug eradication, such as for counterinsurgency campaigns against guerrillas or unarmed civil society.
Chapter One presented relevant critical theoretical perspectives on capitalism and control, technology and domination, surveillance and simulation, and hegemony. This chapter presented the idea that capitalism is the fundamental system of social control and domination, rooted in human control over nature and in capitalist supervision of workers in the interest of profits. Capitalist growth produced complex hierarchical bureaucracies, for which communication and information technologies became important for their administration. These technologies enabled the process of surveillance, supervision, and regulation necessary for control. New microprocessor-based communication and information technologies are not part of a new information revolution, but within capitalist societies are part of a continuation of that system’s ongoing administrative and supervisory needs. These new technologies help those in power to maintain social control and order. Emerging from economic relations and systems of science, technology is not value-free, but instead is laden with the characteristics of the system in which it is anchored. Technology’s service to the interests of social control and domination is an inherent feature of any technological society that becomes a society of domination and control.
Critical perspectives on surveillance demonstrated that through the application of new microprocessor-based technologies massive quantities of information concerning individuals can be collected, processed, and stored. Individuals or other societies can be accurately observed, monitored, and regulated. New microprocessor-based technologies eliminate physical constraints imposed by real walls and barriers. Within cyberarchitectures and virtual terrains surveillance can take on truly omnipotent forms. The permanent gaze of the watchful eye is no longer human, but is an electronic eye that can be as far as a remote sensing satellite miles above the earth’s surface.
Microprocessor-based communication and information technology applied to systems of control and domination has direct military usefulness. The Gulf War revealed the significance of new methods of surveillance and simulation for modern warfare. For the United States, and its proxy governments and armies, acquiring new surveillance and simulation technologies, and hence gaining Information Warfare capability, is necessary for the maintenance of U.S. hegemony, for the ability of the United States to maintain dominance and control.
Given this bleak outlook of an authoritarian and seamless technological capitalist society, it is difficult to imagine possibilities of resistance. Nevertheless, some critical perspectives include discussions of how new technologies do offer the potential for resistance and opposition. Particularly appealing are perspectives that suggest a dialectic of control and resistance. Chapter One outlined some of the binary concepts revealed by moving beyond totalitarian perspectives on technological capitalism. The chapter pitted centralized vertical hierarchies, in which uniformity and homogeneity are the norm against decentralized, horizontal, self-regulating networks, and contrasted militarized forms of organization – that through sophisticated technology seek to dominate, control, and maintain hegemony – with the organization of resistance movements, like the Zapatistas and the pro Zapatista groups around the world – that use new technologies, such as the Internet, not for control, but for resistance and liberation.
Chapter Two presented antecedents to Information Warfare, varied definitions of Information Warfare, a brief description of key technologies that enable Information Warfare capability, and critical approaches to Information Warfare. Information Warfare interests the military, the intelligence community, business, and the computer industry. This results in varying definitions. The Pentagon may be inclined to conceive of Information Warfare in terms of electronic battlefield management. The Gulf War has been cited as an Information War, an example of a nation adopting an offensive Information Warfare position. The offensive act involves the manipulation of information systems to gain dominance over an adversary.
Information Warfare is concerned with both attaining and maintaining dominance over an adversary and with resisting and fighting against the advances of an enemy. This polarity of offensive and defensive Information Warfare is similar to the notion of the dialectic of control. A disjuncture between dominant and critical perspectives becomes apparent around the issue of defensive versus offensive Information Warfare. What is perceived by one group as defensive Information Warfare may be perceived as offensive by another. This is where Information Warfare is exposed for its ideological dimensions. The developers of Information Warfare doctrine clearly represent ruling elite ideology and as such their conceptions and definitions are designed to protect status quo elite interests.
Awareness of the 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 were dependent on advanced computer technology. Chapter Two summarized key technologies enabling Information Warfare including: computer capability; fast semiconductor chips; data storage capacity; operating systems; data search technologies; modeling and simulation technologies; telecommunication systems; fiberoptic, wired, and radio networks; fixed, mobile, satellite infrastructures; high bandwidth transmission; global positioning system technologies; and machine-human interfaces. Against such a list it is possible to assess a society’s Information Warfare capability.
Critical perspectives on Information Warfare must be extrapolated from broader critiques of capitalism, technology, surveillance, and hegemony. Based on these critiques, it can be argued that: Information Warfare simply provides capitalists with another strategy for retaining power; Information Warfare strategy is a variant of the technology as domination model; Information Warfare is an outgrowth of the surveillance society; and Information Warfare doctrine is an important asset in a State’s ability to maintain domestic, regional, and global hegemony. The critical literature showed how technology has become central to forces of social control and domination, but it also showed that forces of resistance and liberation were able to take advantage of technology.
The Drug War is a good example of the forces of domination and control engaging in offensive Information Warfare. Both domestic and international law enforcement efforts have incorporated sophisticated technologies in the pursuit of drug growers and traffickers. Pro Zapatista netwar is an example of the forces of resistance and liberation engaged in pro-active Information Warfare. In reaction, the Pentagon has referred specifically to pro Zapatista Internet usage and has recommended monitoring domestic and international Internet traffic. The Pentagon has studied how to use computer networks to collect public information, disseminate propaganda, politically destabilize other governments, and plant computer viruses.
There is a relationship between the militarization of the Drug War in Mexico and the pro Zapatista propagandistic use of the Net. The Zapatista movement has succeeded in utilizing Internet technology and by generating pressure from global civil society has stalled a final assault by the Mexican armed forces. The Mexican government, along with its U.S. allies, understands the significance of Zapatista cyberspace capability. Perhaps, in seeing the success of the Zapatista movement, the Mexican government has decided to enhance its own Information Warfare capability in order to better combat and attain information dominance over its adversaries. Justifying increased technological militarization of its armed forces and law enforcement – to be used against the Zapatistas, other armed groups, or civil society – is bad public relations for the Mexican state. However, since drugs have been sufficiently demonized, Mexico has been able to more successfully use the Drug War as a means for attaining the same goods. Besides, such high-tech capabilities were already being provided under the cover of the Drug War. It was a matter of continuing existing policy. The United States is able to use the Drug War to extend Mexican dependence upon its technology while becoming entrenched in Mexico’s internal affairs.
This line of thinking illustrates the dialectic of control and resistance. When an adversary achieves dominance, the other party seeks measures to reestablish dominance by increasing its technological capabilities. While the focus of this thesis has been how these technologies are transmitted to Mexico under the guise of the Drug War, an assumption is that this build-up in the Mexican military is also response to armed guerrilla movements. So far, a seamless technological web has not been cast. There are still cracks and fissures.
Chapter Three showed that in the 1980s the conception that drugs posed a threat to national security created a basis for the militarization of the Drug War, justifying the involvement of the U.S. Department of Defense. The first instances of Pentagon involvement took place in the early 1980s. The South Florida Task Force in 1982 set the model for future militarization of the Drug War, incorporating sophisticated surveillance and interdiction technology. This model was applied along the U.S.-Mexico border in 1983. By the end of the 1980s, U.S. military assets were called upon to create a hemispheric system of Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence (C3I). Cold War military technology and know-how began to be used in the hemispheric Drug War.
With U.S. help, the Salinas administration accelerated the militarization of Mexico’s Drug War. Mexico adopted a high-tech interdiction and surveillance model. Through purchases, loans, and donations, mostly from the United States, Mexico acquired radar, aerial surveillance aircraft, communications equipment, and sophisticated military technology. Plus, Mexico allowed the United States more access to operate in its territory. While the Drug War motivated the expansion of Mexico’s technological military capability, the presence of armed groups, EZLN in 1994 and EPR in 1996, intensified the militarization even more. Most new equipment, sophisticated weaponry, and training came from the United States. These military technologies needed to fight the Drug War can be easily applied to counterinsurgency efforts. Radar and surveillance aircraft has been instrumental in the Drug War in Mexico, along the U.S.-Mexico border, and elsewhere in Latin America. This is an indication that the South Florida Task Force high-tech surveillance and interdiction model has become universally applied.
The surveillance technology, aircraft, communication and information technology, and training available to Mexico, primarily from the United States, as a consequence of the Drug War is comparable to what has been deployed along the U.S.-Mexico border and elsewhere in the hemisphere. Surveillance technology made available to Mexico included: ground radar, such as mobile ground radar stations, three dimensional radar, long-distance ground radar, and TPS-70 and TPS-63 radar; aerostat radar balloons and advanced down-looking radar; night-vision devices, such as night-vision goggles and telescopic night-vision gun scopes; white laser designators; imagery from U.S. satellites; global position system instruments; and satellite to NORAD communication. For the Drug War, Mexico gained access to information from U.S. P-3 radar planes, purchased Black Hawk helicopters, leased UH-1H helicopters, and received night-flying helicopter capability, aerial survey flight imagery equipment, and airplane positioning systems.
Information and communication technology included: sophisticated
radio equipment such as high-frequency radios and mobile radio units; computer
and information systems for information management including computer equipment,
general computer software, database software, email capability, data encryption
equipment; mapping technology; equipment for communications interception
and blocking and for electronic surveillance capability; command and control
equipment; access to satellite communication; and linkage to the hemispheric
Drug Control Information System. The gathering, processing, and dissemination
of information seems to be vital to the Drug War. This alone might be an
argument that the Drug War is a type of Information War.
The United States provided direct technical training, some at U.S. bases, for Mexican armed forces and law enforcement agencies in photo interpretation, computer and computer software operation, information management, advanced piloting, night flight training, flight simulation, aviation maintenance, and helicopter mechanics. As well, Mexico’s own war colleges are influenced by U.S. military doctrine and strategy.
Declarations that drugs and drug trafficking pose threats to national security are at the root of the militarization of the Drug War in the United States, Mexico, and elsewhere in the western hemisphere. The Drug War has replaced the Cold War as the ideological justification for U.S. military intervention in the western hemisphere.
Unlike the situation in Mexico, it is more overtly recognized that arms supplied to Colombia to fight the Drug War will also be used against guerrilla movements. It was reported in October, 1996, that “the United States is selling Colombia 12 Blackhawk helicopters, equipped with machine guns, with the explicit understanding that they will be used against the leftist insurgents and drug traffickers.” (Mathews 1996) Responding to this, Amnesty International called for a cessation of U.S. military assistance to Colombia. (UPI 1996a)
Although a similar understanding that arms supplied to Mexico to fight the Drug War have been and are likely to be used against “leftist insurgents” is not as explicit as the case of Colombia, there is little cause to think otherwise. Prominent Latin America policy makers recognize this danger. The Washington Office on Latin America in May 1996 issued a report, The Evolving Role of Mexico’s Military in Public Security and Antinarcotics Programs, that stated:
Unfortunately, although worthy goals, these recommendations do not seem to have been heeded in the past year. To the contrary, as noted in Chapter Three, there has been an agreement that new helicopters supplied to Mexico would not have to be exclusively used for counternarcotics work. There has been an increase not a lessening of the involvement of the Mexican military in police functions and seemingly little emphasis has been made on improving human rights practices.
That the line between anti-drug campaigns and anti-guerrilla campaigns would become so thin as to become meaningless is not surprising. According to the author of Power, Ideology, and the War on Drugs, the U.S. promulgated war on drugs in Latin America has two major functions. The first is to “divert attention away from structural inequalities and injustice.” The second is to assist in “legitimating a vast expansion of U.S. control over and intervention in Latin America.” (Johns 1992, 131)
Oil is a strategic resource possessed by Mexico and coveted by the automobile-based United States. PEMEX is among Mexico’s last major state-owned enterprises, and is under heavy pressure to privatize, which would allow foreign oil corporations to gain a foothold in that economic sector. Most of Mexico’s oil reserves are in the south near areas of conflict and extreme social disparities. Given that oil is a finite non-renewable resource, as it runs out it becomes a more guarded commodity. As Chapter Three showed, since the discovery of major oil reserves in Mexico’s southern region during the 1970s, oil has been a national security concern for Mexico, and presumably for the United States. Part of Mexico’s defense policy began to focus on the protection of Mexican oil. Increased weaponry and know-how provided by the militarization of the Drug War enables this protection.
This example of oil reserves illustrates Mexico’s and the United State’s real national security interests. By declaring drugs to be a threat to national security it obfuscates these underlying interests. The United States can not easily justify sending sophisticated military assistance to Mexico because it covets and want to help protect Mexico’s strategic oil reserves. So, drugs, which have been sufficiently scapegoated, provide a convenient excuse. The Drug War, in replacing the Cold War, is now the ideological rationale for U.S. military and intelligence involvement in Latin America, an involvement that is designed to protect the true underlying economic interests. In the example cited above, one economic interest is oil, but given NAFTA and the wave of neoliberalism spreading throughout the western hemisphere, there are a myriad of U.S. economic interests in that need protection.
The real purpose of the U.S. Drug War is to enable the U.S. Department of Defense and other U.S. national security forces to expand their capability of protecting U.S. capital interests in Latin America. The Drug War provides U.S. security forces with a way to maintain hemispheric hegemony by creating a massive electronic digital web around the Americas.
The desire to seek a military solution to the perceived problem of drugs has meant that existing U.S. technological military assets have been directed to this effort and countries like Mexico have had to acquire more sophisticated military equipment and know-how. Even though it is clear that other perceived national security threats, such as armed guerrilla groups, are driving the militarization process, drug trafficking remains the chief rationalization.
The need for Mexico to acquire more military equipment and know-how in order gain capability in waging a sophisticated Drug War has increased dependence on the United States for this military and technical assistance. This military assistance is manifest in the form of loans, donations, and sales of equipment, as well as training, advice, and cooperative bilateral arrangements.
The acquisition of sophisticated military equipment and know-how has given Mexico new military capability that can be used against drugs, but that also can be used against armed guerrillas, as well as against unarmed civilians and members of civil society. During the 12-day war in Chiapas in 1994 helicopters designated for the Drug War were used to ferry the dead and transport troops. The Zapatistas, on a number of occasions, have commented on how they are subject to overhead aircraft and satellite surveillance. Both aerial imaging and satellite remote sensing are technological capabilities openly discussed as being available to the anti-drug effort. It seems quite plausible that similar overhead surveillance has been directed at the Zapatistas over the course of the last years, so as to ascertain as much knowledge and information as possible about their activities on the ground, to prepare for an eventual air-land assault against them.
This new high-tech military capability that Mexico has been attaining is what Pentagon theorists and scholars in the U.S. military establishment say is necessary for waging a new form of war called Information Warfare. Another more specific name for this is cyberwar. Regardless of the name, it is a new form of warfare that will shape the way future conflicts are waged.
This thesis has shown that military technologies used in the Drug Was are basically the same as those that military technologies that Pentagon theorists and other scholars in the U. S. military establishment describe as being essential to Information Warfare capability. Key technologies needed for Information War, summarized in Chapter Two, have been among the equipment that Mexico has acquired during the course of militarizing its Drug War. This assistance has been demonstrated to come largely from the United States. Global positioning system equipment, computer equipment and information systems, human-machine interfaces such as night vision scopes and flight simulators are some clear examples of the Drug War arsenal that at the same time are tools of Information Warfare. Libicki’s categorization of Information Warfare supplies another example of how the tools of the Drug War are tools of Information War. One of the important categories in Libicki’s conception of Information Warfare is that of command, control, communication and intelligence (C3I). Since the late 1980s when the United States began to devote its Cold War military assets to the Drug War, a central feature has been the establishment of an anti-drug system of command, control communication and intelligence. The introduction by the United States of tactical analysis teams at the American Embassy in Mexico City in 1990 demonstrated, through satellite linked communication between U. S. surveillance aircraft and Mexican law enforcement agents on the ground, that C3I would become important to Mexico’s front of the Drug War.
The sophisticated military technologies gained by Mexico from its militarization of the Drug War suggest perhaps not just capability in Information Warfare, but perhaps more precisely in cyber war as a form of high-tech low intensity conflict.
Low intensity conflict doctrine was articulated in the mid 1980s under the Reagan administration. LIC’s origins are coincident with the onset of the militarization of the Drug War. The Pentagon’s first Low Intensity Warfare Conference was held in January 1986, 4 months before Reagan’s declaration, in April 1986, that drugs were a national security threat. LIC’s roots are in counterinsurgency, the military policy and practice that “transformed American military thinking and swept the nation into the Vietnam war.” (Klare and Kornbluh 1988, 4)
Counterinsurgency warfare began being practiced in the late 1950s, and was incorporated into School of the Americas training for Latin American military officers. Aimed at diffusing insurgent leftist movements, U.S. counterinsurgency support for Latin American armed forces continued through the 1960s at the same time the United States was waging the Vietnam War. (La Feber 1993, passim) The Central Intelligence Agency played a key role in spreading the practice of counterinsurgency against Latin American movements for liberation. The CIA taught torture techniques to Latin American military and police, infiltrated and manipulated oppositional organizations, manipulated news through propaganda and misinformation, worked with other US agencies to manipulate sectors of a country’s economy, and played “dirty tricks” like “bugging, wire-tapping, forged documents, bogus personal letters, planting of evidence, spreading rumors, blackmail, etc.” (Blum 1995, 19, 20) Counterinsurgency established ways for the United States to intervene in and control the events of Latin American countries without directly deploying U.S. troops. Mentioned already, low intensity conflict has its roots in counterinsurgency, as described in Low Intensity Warfare, Counterinsurgency, Proinsurgency, and Antiterrorism in the Eighties.
• Low-intensity operations must incorporate both nonmilitary and military modes of conflict.
• The U.S. military commitment to future LIC engagements should consist primarily of highly trained, “special” formations that can operate successfully in a demanding Third World environment.
• Low-intensity warfare encompasses a broad spectrum of military operations, and thus U.S. forces must be prepared to shift rapidly from one type of LIC activity to another.
• When regular U.S. forces are committed to LIC operations abroad, they should seek to achieve a rapid victory through overwhelming strength and firepower.
• The continuing development and application of LIC doctrine abroad requires sustained political intervention at home.
Klare and Kornbluh (1988) suggested that the Drug War is “another LIC mission that is likely to witness considerable growth in the years ahead.” Dunn (1992), in Militarization of the U.S.-Mexico Border, explored the low intensity conflict dimensions of the Drug War even further. Moreover, Dunn focused on the sophisticated military hardware that had been introduced into the U.S.-Mexico border region.
Although Dunn’s monograph did provide good detail of the types and amounts of sophisticated military technologies being used along the U.S.-Mexico border, he did not go one step more and draw a conclusion about the meaning these new technologies have for a new type of warfare. Whether this new type of warfare be called Information Warfare or cyberwar, clearly there is another military transformation going on that will move low intensity conflict to another level, to what may be called high-tech low intensity conflict. High-tech low intensity conflict (HTLIC) may be viewed as a subcategory of Information Warfare. The arsenal needed to fight HTLIC has been supplied to Mexico via the Drug War.
In War and Anti-War, the Tofflers (1993) mentioned the Drug War in relation to low intensity conflict. But they also made reference to the military technologies made available to the Drug War in light of developments like the Gulf War and they were among the first to point to what others came to define as cyberwar and later as Information Warfare. They saw low intensity conflict in the Third World, either in the form of Drug Wars or other campaigns, as “niche wars.” In their words: “The niche warriors of the future will wage information-intensive warfare, making use of the latest Third Wave technologies now on the horizon.” (Toffler 1993, 108) This type of niche war is an extension of low intensity conflict, but with an emphasis on sophisticated technologies, many of which have been described in this thesis. As an example of the kinds of technologies available to future niche warriors, the Tofflers, as many others have, cited the experience of the Gulf War.
The centrality of helicopters used in conjunction with GPS navigation in future “niche” wars or high-tech low intensity conflicts, is also suggested by Alexander (1995), in the Future of Warfare. In a review of forward thinking military theorists, in a chapter called New Tactics for a New Army, Alexander discovered that:
The combination of satellite or aerial sensing and imagery of ground targets with GPS helicopter-based assault forces backed up by rapid armored ground troops, all utilizing night-vision and laser designator equipment, is a scenario that is extremely likely in future air-land assaults against insurgent targets in Mexico, elsewhere in Latin America, or anywhere in the world. One of consequences of such a new war form scenario is the removal of the warrior, the soldier, the infantry, from a position of prominence in the battlefield. In War in the Age of Intelligent Machines, De Landa (1992) wrote that “for centuries, military commanders have dreamed of eliminating the human element from the battlefield.” The application of “information-processing technology” to war makes “the military commander’s dream of a battlefield without human soldiers a reality.” (De Landa 1992, 129)
The removal of the soldier from the battlefield, especially U.S. ground soldiers, is significant to the implementation of low intensity conflict doctrine. One of the objects during low intensity conflict campaigns is to win the “hearts and minds” of the American populace. (Klare and Kornbluh 1988) If U.S. military and intelligence involvement is remote, and if there are no U.S. troops on the ground, and no U.S. casualties, then it becomes much easier for the military establishment and its ideological producers in mainstream media to generate a supportive environment for their foreign military actions.
Realistically, however, there can never be a complete removal of ground forces. There will always be the need for a ground force to occupy territory that has been captured by aerial assault. But the military presence on the ground will take on new characteristics, as projected in Information Technologies and The Future of Land Warfare (Nichiporuk and Builder 1995), a RAND publication that envisions soldiers as sensors and network armies. The primary function of the soldier of the future will be to fill the gap between “rapidly developing computing and communications technologies on one hand and sensor technologies on the other.” (Nichiporuk and Builder 1995, 64) These sensor soldiers would provide chopper-borne gunships with more accurate target information and act as a target enhancer to information gleaned from satellite or aerial imaging.
Given these future cyberwar or high-tech low intensity conflict scenarios in which counterinsurgency functions in the electronic spectrum – creating virtual fences around and digital maps of low-tech opposition forces on the ground before making satellite guided aerial assaults – the prospects for resistance seem dim. It is instructive to view the cybernetic warfare proponents’ conceptions of how resistance may operate against these new war forms. In Information Technologies and The Future of Land Warfare., Nichiporuk and Builder (1995) contemplated how resistance could manifest in their futuristic vision of the computerized battlefield. They start from the assumption that “most potential U.S. opponents around the world now realize that it would be futile to challenge the American military with regular forces on a conventional battlefield.” With respect to the military capability of armed groups in Mexico, the same can be said for them in relation to the Mexican State. Since the Mexican government has gained the ability to wage HTLIC, the Zapatistas and the EPR probably are not be able to fight the Mexican armed forces head-to-head in a conventional battlefield. Even without such technological approaches, the Mexican armed forces could simply out number the guerrilla forces as they are currently configured.
Nichiporuk and Builder (1995) delineate 4 possible ways that an opposing force may attempt to resist military forces with a capability similar to that of the United States: parallel; direct; passive; and asymmetrical. These same 4 possibilities can be applied to Mexico, as the armed forces there would be functioning basically as a proxy army of the United States if a real insurgency movement was launched.
A parallel response is one “in which the opponent tries to obtain weapons comparable in kind and quality to those of the adversary.” The authors stated that right now “there are no adversaries on the horizon who could mount across-the-board ‘parallel’ challenges to the U.S. military.” A parallel response is obviously an extremely unrealistic option for any sort of indigenous, peasant, or even urban-based insurgency in Mexico, even if the U.S. were not treating the Mexican military as a proxy army and the Mexican government had to fend for itself.
A direct response is one “in which the opponent moves to acquire weapons that are intended to be the most effective and efficient counters to the adversary’s strength, not necessarily in kind or quality.” An example cited by the Nichiporuk and Builder would be the acquisition of surface-to-air missiles to counter tactical fighters. It is more plausible for Mexican insurgents to engage in direct responses, but even so this possibility seems improbable.
A passive response is one “in which the opponents move to make their target set less vulnerable to the adversary’s weapons. This might be done through dispersion, hardening, mobility, deception, and concealment.” This is an option much more realizable by insurgent groups. The Zapatistas’ face masks represent a form of concealment. It enables them to move back and forth into civilian life. When they take off their masks they become simply Indian campesinos again.
Finally, an asymmetrical response is one “in which the opponent moves to shift the foci of a conflict to areas of comparative advantage. . . Here the enemy would use weapons or tactics to neutralize U.S. power without directly engaging that power on the terms for which it was designed.” This is a response in which insurgent movements in Mexico are most likely to be successful.
Asymmetrical responses seem to be the biggest worry for Nichiporuk and Builder. In their analysis, it is through this fourth response that adversaries to the U.S. military establishment will have the greatest chance at success, and so they spend considerably more time discussing asymmetries. This is instructive because it offers a framework through which to consider possible resistance to HTLIC.
Beyond these types of technical responses, Nichiporuk and Builder worried that among the arsenal of asymmetrical responses is the ability of non-state actors to decompose and recompose themselves easily and quickly into other locations and to turn war into theater, through the use of the media. Nichiporuk and Builder stated: “That the information revolution could be causing warfare to trend toward theater seemed to be a new and interesting idea to pursue.” These are definite areas in which the pro Zapatista movement seems to have been successful, especially with the application of netwar, political communication and propaganda on the Internet. Nichiporuk and Builder added that “today, the information revolution has created a larger audience for each of the Army’s performances; it also gives the Army less time than ever before to adapt its scripts to avoid an unfavorable scene.”
This notion of netwar is taken up in a more detailed fashion by yet another RAND publication titled The Advent of Netwar (Arquilla and Ronfeldt 1996), expressing that “netwar relates to lower-intensity conflict at the societal end of the spectrum.” Since the Zapatistas and the Mexican government ended their 12-day war on January 12, 1994, the conflict has been predominantly a war of words. A vehicle for this war of words to exist on a global level has been the Internet. The Zapatista movements success at this form of netwar is explicitly mentioned several times in The Advent of Netwar:
It is a result of this new form of networked resistance that Arquilla and Ronfeldt suggested that counterinsurgency protagonists will need to become adapt at “counternetwar.” They also propose that in order to fight networked resistance, traditional hierarchical organizations, like the military, will need to become more networked. This is a similar to Nichiporuk and Builder’s concept of the network army.
The success of the Zapatista’s war of words can be measured by the fact they still have not been eliminated militarily. But since this war of words, or netwar, has been waged, the Mexican government has engaged in negotiations with the Zapatistas while at the same time they have been preparing for cyberwar against them. The preparation for cyberwar or for HTLIC against the Zapatistas has been happening in at least two arenas: the gathering of intelligence about the Zapatistas and the acquisition of new military equipment.
Since negotiations began between the Zapatistas and the government, the Mexican armed forces, in collaboration with the United States, have had ample opportunity to make satellite and aerial photographs and maps of Zapatista strongholds in Chiapas. Utilizing these and other means of surveillance and information gathering, they have been able to assess the Zapatistas capabilities and formulate contingency plans for a probable final offensive. At the same time, continued acquisition of and training in sophisticated weaponry under the guise of the Drug War, has further prepared the Mexican military for a cybernetic air-land assault.
If the conflict between the Zapatistas and the Mexican government shifts from a netwar, in which until now the Zapatistas have had the upper hand, to a cyberwar, in which without a doubt the Mexican military cooperating with the United States will have an upper hand, then the Zapatista movement worldwide will need to reconsider which types of asymmetrical responses are appropriate. Clearly the war of words will have to persist, even if a cyberwar is waged against the Zapatistas in Chiapas. But in addition, asymmetrical responses will probably need to move beyond words. In the international environment this could mean protests, blockades, occupations, or even violent assaults on Mexican consulates and embassies. On the ground in Chiapas, it is unclear how EZLN combatants would fare against another air-land assault. If the 12-day war in 1994 is any indication, the Mexican military could lose a few helicopters, but at the same time, if this brief encounter was a predictor, such an aerial assault would result in many civilian deaths.
Time seems to be an essential element in an examination of potential resistance that cyberwar in Chiapas would produce. According to low intensity conflict doctrine, one of the principles of LIC is that when troops are engaged they should move swiftly and decisively toward victory. This philosophy is a reaction to long drawn out interventions, such as the Vietnam War, that allow for opposition to brew and spill over into the streets. The U.S. invasion of Panama was quick and decisive. The U.S. war against Iraq was the same. Any resistance within the United States to these foreign interventions was over quickly.
Similarly, Mexican and U.S. war planners who are developing contingencies for another air-land assault on the Zapatistas must be thinking how it should be a mission that is over quickly and one that generates the least impact on public opinion. Surely, by now, the technical capability has been amassed to initiate another offensive that is likely to succeed. The main obstacle seems to be national and international opinion. If the Mexican government, in another offensive, can overtake, unmask, disarm, and dominate the Zapatista forces in a period of just days or a few weeks, with “acceptable” civilian casualties, they would be able to recover relatively unscathed. But such a scenario may be too neat in what is an increasingly unpredictable environment.
Mexican war planners need to account for possible asymmetrical responses from other armed guerrilla groups not aligned with EZLN, like the EPR which demonstrated the ability for waging simultaneous assaults in a number of southern states last August. Moreover, they need to account for asymmetrical responses from yet unnamed groups or individuals. With another military offensive aimed at eliminating the Zapatistas, there exists the possibility of generalized resistance to the Mexican state and armed forces, both within and outside of Mexico. This threat must be taken in to account by Mexican and U.S. war planners. Given this, it makes sense why they have chosen to wage a war of attrition, slowly wearing down the Zapatistas and their support base. If the Mexican State believed that they could have successfully finished off the Zapatistas, it seems they would have done so by now.
In the end, a military solution is not the solution to the impetus of the Zapatista movement. Even if the Mexican military were able to launch a quick and decisive final offensive against the Zapatistas, this would not eliminate the structural inequalities and economic disparities that produced their armed resistance. Military conflict or not, a war of words is likely to continue to address these inequalities and disparities, both within Mexico and on a global level. Economic injustice is not unique to Mexico. It may be unique that the Internet was first utilized by the Zapatista movement to draw global attention to their struggle, but this may have just been a matter of being in the right place at the right time with respect to these new communication technologies. It is likely that the Net and cyberspace will evolve as a battleground for all sorts of social movements in the years to come.
Given that parallel and direct responses to the combined military strength of the United States and its proxy armies are not realistic options for most grassroots resistance movements, these movements need to master passive and asymmetrical responses. Since current and future warfare is dependent on communication and information technologies, it is incumbent upon resistance movements to gain expertise in these new technologies and to become a movement of netwarriors. It will be hard for the State to squelch a resistance movement that is based around a war of words on the Internet. So far in the United States free speech remains above board and legal.
While it is clear that new computer-based communication
and information technology is used for social control and domination, it
is also true this technology can be used for social resistance and liberation.
In the face of Mexico’s cyberwar capability, the Zapatistas in collaboration
with netizens all over the world have waged a war of words or a netwar.
For the moment, they have forestalled the Mexican armed forces from making
a final surgical strike into the heart of Chiapas’ Lacandon jungle. This
stalemate cannot go on forever. Increasingly, the Mexican State is under
pressure to make a decisive action to eliminate such bad publicity.
Recently, Peruvian President Fujimori was under similar pressure to take decisive action when special forces launched a surgical strike, on April 22, 1997, against Tupac Amaru guerrillas who had taken hostages in the Japanese Ambassadors house in Lima. The Fujimorian strategy seems to have been to negotiate, to negotiate more, to negotiate even more, and then to kill the opposition negotiators.
Perhaps Mexico will adopt a similar model. The ongoing negotiations between the Zapatistas and the Mexican government could break down at any moment. In another military assault, Zapatista resistance forces have limited capability to match the Mexican State’s increased ability to wage cyberwar. They do not have attack helicopters or surface-to-air missiles or access to sophisticated communication and navigational equipment. In the end, the war of words is no match for GPS guided helicopter gunships. Even so, the war of words is the Zapatista movement’s strong point and one that needs to be expanded by continuing to develop alternative communication networks that depend on Internet and World Wide Web technologies.