Martin Libiki wrote “Why Cyber War Will Not and Should Not Have Its Grand Strategist” in the Spring 2014 edition of Strategic Studies Quarterly, and for a shorter take on this read Tim Steven’s summary and analysis of this article. The pull quote from Steven’s analysis is:
Libicki presents a nuanced argument for why cyber war/fare is significantly less revolutionary than it is often presented, a position also taken by several writers of this parish. I won’t rehearse those arguments here, except to say that Libicki is onto something fundamental here: success in the ‘fifth domain’ is often unpredictable, which makes it a very risky proposition, tactically, operationally and strategically. Says Libicki, ‘Everything appears contingent, in large part, because it is’. Hardly the basis for a grand theory of cyber war, he reasons.
There are two contentions in this paragraph that are worth some thought. The “fifth domain” is cyber, with air, land sea and space being the other four. Are cyber weapons and cyber offensive and defensive activities in a war less predictable than the other four domains? At this point the answer is yes, but this could be because we do not have the historical data or years of theory and analysis that the other domains have. Will it continue to be less predictable after experience and study?
I don’t have a position on this yet, but the question is interesting and important. I believe it is safe to say that decision makers on war activities are much less likely to rely on or use a weapon or strategy that is unpredictable.
Looking at the ICSsec world we live in, our experience indicates that we could create and use an ICS cyber weapon with very predictable results. There are counter examples of cyber weapons were the results are less predictable. However I imagine this would be true of weapons in the other four domains.
The other point in the quote worth considering is “cyber war/fare is significantly less revolutionary than it is often presented”. Thomas Rid indirectly takes this approach in his book Cyber War Will Not Take Place, but he is talking about a cyber war not cyber weapons or cyber warfare. With the level of “cyber” in the weapons in the other four domains, it would seem that it is revolutionary.
One last related point and question … should militaries be creating a Cyber Force or integrating Cyber into the existing Army, Navy and Air Force organizations or both?
More questions and ramblings than answers or firm opinions in this post, but these are important topics and ideas and more of the reason why we added the ICSage: ICS Cyber Weapons day to S4.
Image by boilingwaterfrog