Cyber Strategy: The Evolving Character of Power and Coercion

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Are cyber operations as revolutionary as the headlines suggest?  Do they compel rival states and alter international politics? By examining cyber strategy as a contemporary form of political warfare and covert action, this book demonstrates that the digital domain complements rather than replaces traditional instruments of power.

Some pundits have declared cyber weaponry to be the most important military innovation in the last decade, a new technology that promises enhanced coercive ability and a first-strike advantage to those who might wish to use it to attack their opponents. Yet, what is cyber strategy?  How do actors use cyber power as a coercive tool?

This book examines the efficacy of coercion in cyberspace, and seeks to explain the emerging art of cyber strategy and its integration as part of a larger approach to coercion by states in the international system. It does this by first looking at just how effective states have been in using cyber means to achieve foreign policy goals and, secondly, by examining the concept of a combined arms approach to achieving victory in diplomatic negotiations or combat operations, a concept the authors call “integrated coercive strategies.”

The authors investigate cyber strategies in their integrated and isolated contexts, demonstrating that they are useful for maximizing informational asymmetries and disruptions, and thus are important coercive tools. In this respect, the authors define cyber coercion as the use of manipulation, denial, and punishment strategies in the digital frontier to achieve some strategic end. But they argue that cyber coercion, like other forms of coercive diplomacy, achieves maximum effect when combined with other levers.  That is, states are more likely to reach their policy ends when they integrate cyber power alongside economic sanctions, broader diplomatic campaigns, military threats, and/or the limited use of airpower.  The authors show that cyber strategies likely do not achieve effects in isolation, an assertion that challenges the net centric discourse on cyber warfare. While most military plans involving cyber attributes remain highly classified, the authors piece together strategies based on observations of attacks over time and through the policy discussion in unclassified space. The result will be the first broad evaluation of the efficacy of various strategic options in a digital world. 

Brandon Valeriano (PhD Vanderbilt University) is the Donald Bren Chair of Armed Politics at the Marine Corps University. He also serves as Senior Non-Resident Fellow at the Atlantic Council with the Cyber Statecraft Initiative. Dr. Valeriano has published five books and dozens of articles. His two most recent books are Cyber War versus Cyber Reality (2015) and Cyber Strategy (2018), both with Oxford University Press. Dr. Valeriano has written opinion and popular media pieces for such outlets as the Washington Post, Slate, Foreign Affairs, and Lawfare. He has provided testimony on armed conflict in front of both the United States Senate and the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Ongoing research explores conflict escalation, big data in cyber security, the cyber behavior of revisionist actors, repression in cyberspace, and the influence of video games on foreign policy.

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