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The Myth of Cyberwar: Bringing War in Cyberspace Back Down to Earth


Cyberwar has been described as a revolution in military affairs, a transformation of technology and doctrine capable of overturning the prevailing world order. This characterization of the threat from cyberwar, however, reflects a common tendency to conflate means and ends; studying what could happen in cyberspace (or anywhere else) makes little sense without considering how conflict over the internet is going to realize objectives commonly addressed by terrestrial warfare. To supplant established modes of conflict, cyberwar must be capable of furthering the political ends to which force or threats of force are commonly applied, something that in major respects cyberwar fails to do. As such, conflict over the internet is much more likely to serve as an adjunct to, rather than a substitute for, existing modes of terrestrial force. Indeed, rather than threatening existing political hierarchies, cyberwar is much more likely to simply augment the advantages of status quo powers.