The Terror Fringe

Rid, T. and M. Hecker (2009) "The Terror Fringe" Policy Review 158 December-January, p. 3-19

The Afghan-Pakistan border region is widely identified as a haven for jihadi extremists. But the joint between local insurgencies and global terrorism has been dislocated. A combination of new technologies and new ideologies has changed the role of popular support: In local insurgencies the population may still be the “terrain” on which resistance is thriving — and counterinsurgency, by creating security for the people, may still succeed locally. But Islamic violent extremism in its global and ambitious form is attractive only for groups at the outer edge, the flat end of a popular support curve. Jihad failed to muster mass support, but it is stable at the margin of society. Neither the West nor its enemies can win — or lose — a war on terror. […]

The linkage between terrorism and insurgency has been altered in the early 21st century. Instead of seeing high-volume popular support in an insurgency as the “soil” on which resistance and terrorism are flourishing — and counterinsurgency as a competition for that support — an additional paradigm is needed: the “tail.”

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War 2.0

Rid, T. and M. Hecker War 2.0: Irregular Warfare in the Information Age Westport: Praeger (2009) 280p

New: War 2.0 in Chinese by the People’s Liberation Army Press, as “战争2.0

War 2.0: Irregular Warfare in the Information Age, co-authored with Marc Hecker, argues that two intimately connected trends are putting modern armies under huge pressure to adapt: the rise of insurgencies and the rise of the Web. Both in cyberspace and in warfare, a public dimension has assumed increasing importance in recent years. After the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, Web 2.0 rose from the ashes. This newly interactive and participatory form of the Web promotes and enables offline action. Similarly, after an attempt to transform the U.S. military into a lean, lethal, computerized force faltered in Iraq in 2003, counterinsurgency rose from the ashes. Counterinsurgency is a social form of war — indeed, the U.S. Army calls it “armed social work” — in which the local population becomes the center of gravity and public opinion at home the critical vulnerability.

War 2.0 traces the contrasting ways in which insurgents and counterinsurgents have adapted irregular conflict. It examines the public affairs policies of the U.S. land forces, the British Army, and the Israel Defense Forces. Then it compares the media-related counterinsurgency methods of these conventional armies to the more diverse methods devised by their asymmetric adversaries, showing how such organizations as al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Hezbollah use the Web not merely to advertise their political agenda and influence public opinion, but to mobilize a following and put insurgent operations into action. But the same technology that tends to level the operational playing field in irregular warfare also incurs heavy costs on terrorists and insurgents. (hardback)

Thematically rich and masterfully constructed, this book shows how our wired-up world has changed the operational environment, making both war and insurgency more complex, decentralised, and bottom-up. Few other books have grasped so effectively the seismic change in the character of war. War 2.0 is Clausewitz rebooted for the 21st century.
Christopher Coker, Professor of International Relations, The London School of Economics, author of Humane Warfare

War, flowing from society as a whole, is constantly evolving. Winning wars requires understanding the changing environment and adapting faster than the enemy. Rid and Hecker provide powerful case studies on how our primary enemies have understood and adapted to the changes Web 2.0 is driving. It would behoove professionals to read and understand this remarkable book.
T.X. Hammes, Colonel (Ret), U.S. Marine Corps, author of The Sling and the Stone

High-tech revolutions are rocking the military and the media, toppling hierarchies, and upending traditional players. Until now, no one has shown how these twin upheavals are linked–and feeding one an-other. War 2.0 reveals how the old ways of war and communications are coming apart, and what the chaotic, self-organizing, networked future is likely to be.
Noah Shachtman, Wired magazine, editor of Danger Room, a security blog

The public, more than ever before, has become the center of gravity in irregular warfare. Sharp and testing, War 2.0 probes the burgeoning impact of the new media.
Gérard Chaliand, author of History of Terrorism. From Antiquity to Al Qaida.

For review copies, contact


Jem Thomas, Media, War, and Conflict, Vol 3; Iss 1, 2010, p. 114-115 (.pdf)

George Michael, Terrorism and Political Violence, Vol 22, 2 April 2010, 332-334

Robert Cassidy, “War in the Information Age,” Parameters, winter 2009/2010, 117-122 (.pdf).

A. C. Tuttle, Choice (Association of College & Research Libraries), February 2010

Stéphane Taillat, Revue Française de Sciences Politiques, No 6, Vol 59, Décembre 2009 (.pdf)

Défense et Sécurité Internationale, No 51, décembre 2009, p. 98 (.pdf)

Jacques Perriault, Hermès, No 55, décembre 2009