US playing dangerous game with 'cyber deterrence'

16:48, July 26, 2011      

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The U.S. Department of Defense recently released the "Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace." This is the first strategic guidance plan outlining tactics of the U.S. military for cyberspace operations and a major strategic step to implement the "International Strategy for Cyberspace" released by the U.S. government in May 2011. The United States has generally completed the comprehensive review and understanding of its cyberspace security and is entering into the phase of making comprehensive arrangements and taking practical actions.

The United States have successively released two policy guidelines relating to cyberspace within a period of only two months. From "international strategy" to "military actions," the United States has first conducted a series of diplomatic activities and then made military arrangements and preparations for its cyberspace operations. This has fully shown that the United States has started using both diplomatic and military approaches to develop its "blueprint" for cyberspace.

The "Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace" has included cyberspace among the traditional "domains of warfare," such as land, sea, air and outer space. This means that cyberspace will become a major domain of the U.S. military in the future. "Active defense" and "cyber deterrence" are most noteworthy among the "core definitions" in the "Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace."

The U.S. military will shift its cyberspace security protection from "passive defense" to "active defense" and develop powerful cyberspace deterrence capabilities. U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn said that cyber attacks will become a major constituent of any conflict, no matter whether they involve countries or terrorist forces, and the United States must be prepared to counterattack hostilities in cyberspace, with the overwhelming focus of its active defense strategy being deterrence.

James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also made it clear that the U.S. military has currently drawn almost all of its efforts in strengthening cyberspace security to defense and should gradually shift the focus to strategic deterrence. The U.S. military will not only build a more solid "firewall" but also monitor potential rivals in order to defend and retaliate over the next decade. Once it suffers destructive cyber attacks, it will use its conventional military force consisting of its various branches to fight back, cope with and destroy enemies that launch virtual attacks by means of physical wars.

The so-called "cyberspace deterrence" proposed by senior U.S. officers is similar to the "nuclear deterrent" of the past in principle. It means, while fully maintaining its attack strength, the United States must also possess the capability to carry out retaliation and destruction that the opposite side cannot afford to endure. Since nuclear weapons are too hard to proliferate, a "balance of nuclear terror" usually exists between two nuclear countries. But the situation of networks is obviously more complex.

For the United States, its "cyberspace deterrence force" consists of three parts. The first part is a "network army" that could both attack and defend. The second part is the network attacking weapons, such as the "digital bomb." The third part means when it is necessary, the United States could use its practical military power to attack its network enemy.

However, the United States or a few countries could not exclusively master these three parts, and even an individual could master the first two parts. Therefore, these measures could easily be imitated. Network safety actions usually have unbalanced, mutual penetrating and mutual-switching attacks and defenses, and such characteristics of the actions as "throwing a sprat to catch a whale," "long-distance automation," "multi-point springboard" and "no home front or front line," still exist.

Furthermore, the new strategy document reflects the willingness of the United States to build collective cyber defenses with its NATO allies and international partners because it is worried that there may be a cyber Cold War in the future. The United States hopes that the build-up of collective cyber defenses will strengthen its cyber security and give itself and other Western countries a major advantage in global cyber defenses. Cyberspace will become a new international battlefield where the Cold War mindset may be rampant and threaten world peace.

The United States is militarizing cyberspace in some sense. It is expected that cyberspace will become a new international battlefield, and a cyber arms race will be unavoidable because cyber security has become a life-and-death national security issue.

In order to ensure national security, most countries will pay greater attention to the development and application of Internet technology and the safety of related products. It is worth noting that the United States did not list any target country in its cyber security strategy.

In fact, it is prepared for cyber attacks by any foreign nation. Cyber attacks and defenses occur every day, so it would be important to clearly define cyber threats. If improper individual behaviors are easily treated as state actions, the United States may sink into another "quagmire of pointless war."

By Yu Xiaoqiu from People's Daily, translated by People's Daily Online

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