Defeating networks requires a comprehensive strategy.
First, it is ineffective to defend our complex economic/political networks from asymmetrical attacks.
Second, hostile networks are vulnerable to attacks. An active strategy places our enemies on the defensive and disrupts their operations.
Networks are dissipative structures. This means they are not at equilibrium and are not stable systems. Networks need an inflow and outflow of resources to maintain cohesion. They constantly expend resources to operate so they need a logistical source to continue operations. If cut off from new resources, they shrink in size and capability. Eg: a corporation requires profits to regenerate its past losses and develop future wealth and technology in a dynamic economy. If a state takes away the profits, the corporation dissolves, firing all its workers and leaving its customers without material goods.
How can a state respond to this type of warfare? Here’s basic Counterinsurgency analogy: There’s a sink full of water (the insurgency), but how do you attack it? You don’t. You attack the water faucet to prevent regeneration.
This strategy identifies the major weakness of social networks. Social Networks are dissipative structures in an open system. Networks grow and maintain their size by constantly absorbing energy and material to prevent entropy. Turn on a water faucet – the swirl of water around the drain is a dissipative structure; when you turn off the tap, the sink empties. If you close the inflow of resources, the network dissolves.
Targeting individual networks is futile. It is impossible to detect every single one. However, a confederation is greater than the sum of its parts. Step one, break up the confederation. Step two, cut off their regeneration source. The remaining networks will splinter apart and pose less of a threat.
Security pressure reduces the size of an organization (men, money and material) so networks to focus on survival. Pressure makes large confederations collapse and fragment into smaller networks and removes their territorial space. These networks lack the labor specialization and economy of scale to accomplish anything more than nuisance crime.
For some reason, critics suggest that killing terrorists magically creates more terrorists, as if emotions substitute for logistical resources. This argument runs counter to the logic of network theory and a long history of policing and counterinsurgency.
This is an incremental problem, not a categorical problem. Security forces measure the relative size, function, and severity of each network and prioritize. It is functionally impossible to completely eliminate hostile networks because of the law of diminishing returns. The objective is to minimize the threat as cheaply as possible. After a certain point, the costs of more security greatly outweigh the benefits. The fact that some criminals or terrorists remain is categorical – it only means the war was won incrementally.
Policing represents a form of perpetual warfare. Police must maintain constant pressure to prevent criminal organizations or tribal warlords from emerging. The moment the police force is distracted or weakened, hostile criminal networks emerge and grow as rapidly as possible. Police react and counterattack to close the gap and return society to its desired state. It is a balancing loop in the system, not a solution.
International law upholds this theory by holding states accountable for the activities of non-state actors on their territory. States may not offer safe harbors for terrorists, pirates, insurgents; if they do, it is an act of war against the injured states. If a state is too weak to combat them on its own, it is obligated to request allied assistance.
Unfortunately, only a small number of modernized nation-states can afford professional police and military forces needed to maintain security. Most states in the world are too weak, allowing non-state actors to flourish.