The Swarm Approach to Warfare: An Introduction For Frontliners

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Read the whole thing. Read the other essays at the above linked site. Learn who and what you are dealing with. They are not stupid, they are not unorganized. Never for a moment underestimate them. They have training, they have unlimited resources, they have concrete ideology and are true believers. They are everywhere, and they are coming for you.


The following is intended as an introduction to the concept of “swarming” as an approach to warfare, as theorized by John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt in Swarming and the Future of Conflict, published in 2000 under the RAND Corporation’s National Defense Research Institute. It is hoped that the emergent frontliner tendencies that have migrated from the 2019 Hong Kong Democracy Movement to the 2020 George Floyd Rebellion can make use of swarm theory to elaborate the oft-cited maxim, “be water.” 

Swarm warfare is about using horizontal communication so that units can act both autonomously and conjointly without centralized, hierarchical command structures. If this sounds familiar, it is not a coincidence: Arquilla and Ronfeldt cite the strategy of anarchists and alter-globalization activists in the lead-up to the Battle of Seattle in 1999 as a contemporary example of swarming at the time of their writing. Taking lessons from trends in warfare at the close of the 20th century, their work proposes “Battle Swarm” as a military doctrine, that is, as a normative approach to conducting warfare. Battle Swarm is therefore an instance of our enemies learning from how we fight in order to apply our lessons against us. 

And yet the lessons go both ways: in formulating the concept of swarm warfare, our enemies have helped us by identifying key tactical, strategic, and logistical aspects that we can improve on in our struggles. Therefore, the following introduction to swarming as an approach to conflict should be used to critically and creatively assess our tactics in the streets and what kinds of communications infrastructures and practices are suited to coordinating our efforts [1].

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