Let it be stated at the outset: the virtual weapon has not fundamentally changed the nature of war. Further, insofar as the consequences of its use do not rise to the level of traditional interstate violence, there will be no such thing as cyber ‘war.’ In these respects, those who claim that the contemporary cyber peril is overblown are correct. Yet the Clausewitzian philosophical framework—a cherished device of the cyber skeptics[2]—misses the essence of the cyber revolution: the new capability is expanding the range of possible harm and outcomes between the concepts of war and peace, with important implications for national and international security. The disanalogy of war conveys only what the cyber issue is not; it does not reveal the true significance of the danger, and may even conceal it.

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Cyber War Will Not Take Place coverWith Cyber War Will Not Take Place, Thomas Rid has written an important volume at a critical juncture of the cyber-conflict debate. In a rush to articulate a new threat after the end of the Cold War, the demise of regional powers in the Middle East and North Africa (such as Syria, Iraq, and Libya, making Israel more secure), and the near total rejection of the Global War on Terror, the next threat to materialize appears to be cyber war. This is the impression one might get if engaging the current security discourse. Both the United Nations and United States have argued that the threat of cyber warfare is greater than the danger of terrorism, a striking reversal barely ten years after 9/11. Yet, as Rid notes (along with others in this developing literature), the threat of cyber warfare often is overstated and near nonexistent.[1] Building on an article in Journal of Strategic Studies (2012), Rid argues, very forcibly, that cyber war will not take place.[2]

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How does peace between states become an established social fact or part of the unquestioned order of things? This question drives Vincent Pouliot’s International Security in Practice, an innovative and provocative contribution to the theoretical literature on international security, with an empirical focus on post-Cold War Russian-Atlantic security relations.  While the challenge of theorizing the causes and conditions of war and peace between states is ‘ancient’ in the discipline of International Relations (IR), the challenge of enacting transatlantic peace became a novel and urgent practical concern in world politics following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the U.S.-USSR superpower rivalry, a set of events which opened up a rare opportunity for the pacification of relations between former enemies.  Although there were initial promising signs in the early 1990s of great transformations in security relations between Russia and the West, transatlantic peace has materialized only as a fragile and somewhat fleeting achievement.  Why was the hope of a robust and enduring post-Cold War transatlantic peace stillborn (p. 191)?

 

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