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By Guy-Philippe Goldstein
INSS – Military and Strategic Affairs Program
Though cyberspace is a domain of strategic importance, cyber weapons have not yet been associated with publicly well-enunciated doctrines of use comparable to that of the nuclear age. Taking two very different approaches from the strategic literature—Jervis’ security dilemma and Zagare & Kilgoure’s perfect deterrence model—cyber weapons are demonstrated in both cases to induce a higher level of international instability. In particular, instability is favored by the attribution issue and the lack of clear thresholds. The outline of a cyber-defense doctrine, focusing on the two mentioned informational issues, is then suggested.
In 2013 cyberspace is a domain of strategic importance. The threat of cyber-attacks has been placed at the top of the list of national security risks in the “Intelligence Community Worldwide Threat Assessment of 2013,” and computer network warfare is one of the only military areas in both the US and in NATO countries that is expected to grow.3 Beginning in 2009, the United States Cyber Command, for example, was established as a unified command under the United States Strategic Command. As was stated quasi-officially by the Wall Street Journal in June 2011, computer sabotage that is generated in another country is sometimes considered by the Pentagon as an act of war. In that sense, since the effects of cyber weaponry could be substantially vast, key decisions require direct approval from the US President, as they “should be unleashed only on the direct orders of the commander in chief.”
There is, however, no doctrine of use that is as clearly communicated as the doctrine of nuclear deterrence. First, many rules remain secretive and strictly in the realm of the highest echelon of the executive powers. Second, the domain itself is not clearly defined: it may be a in the war fighting domain, or not. Is cyberspace critical only because it is conducive to military assurance? Or is it critical in its own right due to the increasing value of the data stored and protected in cyberspace? Finally, the development of a doctrine takes time and historical precedents. Though concepts of nuclear deterrence began emerging in 1946 following the works of Brodie,8 Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) did not come to the forefront before the late 1950s. In the USSR, the nuclear strategy’s “learning curve” was even less advanced. Certainly, the field of cyber studies is still relatively young, and cyber weaponry in itself is constantly evolving in scale and scope.
Guy-Philippe Goldstein MBA, HEC (France), is the author of Babel Minute Zero, a bestseller about international cyber warfare.
This article was first published in Military & Strategic Affairs journal. Volume 5 issue 2
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