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[ISN] There is no cyber war the same way there is no nuclear war


By Richard Stiennon

One of the staff at my school (Kingâs College, London) recently published a paper that used Clausewitzian definitions of war to declaim that there has been no cyberwar, cyberwar is not happening now, and cyberwar is unlikely to occur in the future. Of course it is easy to prove a point if you control the definitions and I will stipulate that the idea of two nations engaging in purely network and computer based attacks would result in nothing but fodder for cyber pundits and tech journalists.

But warfare has seen many more permutations throughout history than even Clausewitz may have been exposed to. How would Clausewitz have treated Indiaâs successful pacifist revolt? Would he have said you canât wage a war by fasting? What about asymmetric warfare â a topic that most academic institutions, including Kingâs College, are focused on. Or psychological warfare? Clausewitz pre-dated the telegraph (invented six years after his death) let alone radio, television, and the Internet. Could Clausewitz have defined the 50 year protracted Cold War which entailed the largest arms build up ever? Arms that were never used.

One could as easily argue that there has never been a nuclear war. While Japan was the victim of nuclear holocaust it did not have nuclear weapons and was not in a position to retaliate. Japan had been so decimated by August of 1945 that Trumanâs war department had difficulty selecting targets worth flattening. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were effective political moves that helped Hirohito depose his military elite and surrender unconditionally. By Clausewitzâs definition it was not nuclear war.

In the ensuing 66 years there have been over 2,000 tests of nuclear weapons (2,053 up to 1998) and an expenditure on the part of the US, USSR/Russia, UK, France, Pakistan, India, North Korea, Israel, and Iran that is measured in trillions of dollars. These countries certainly believe that nuclear attacks are possible and that the only way to prevent them is to have a nuclear capability. Thus a demonstrable stability has been achieved. A conventional war between two nuclear armed countries is unlikely because of the fear of escalation; resulting in a holocaust that neither country would survive.


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