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A Cyberwar of Ideas? Deterrence and Norms in Cyberspace

Contemporary Security Policy, Vol. 33, No. 1, pp. 148-170

27 Pages Posted: 5 Jul 2012  

Tim Stevens

King's College London

Date Written: 2012

Abstract

This article relates US efforts to develop strategic ‘cyber deterrence’ as a means to deter adversarial actions in and through global cyberspace. Thus far, interests-based cyber deterrence theory has failed to translate into effective US policy and strategy, due to a divergence between the operational idiosyncrasies of cyberspace and an over-reliance on Cold War models of deterrence. Even whilst explicit cyber deterrence strategy falters, the US is pursuing a norms-based approach to cyber strategy generally, and hopes to derive deterrent effects from its attempts to broker international agreements pertaining to the ‘rules of the road’ for the proper and productive use of cyberspace. The US is not the only norm entrepreneur in this policy space, however, and this article examines how a range of other state and non-state actors are complicating efforts to develop normative regimes that might reduce risks to and from cyberspace. The article concludes that a norms-based approach to cyber deterrence might engender deterrent effects at the state level but is unlikely to do so in the case of ‘rogue’ states and many non-state actors. States will continue, therefore, to develop punitive deterrence capabilities to respond to these actors.

Keywords: cybersecurity, international relations, international security, international politics, constructivism

Suggested Citation

Stevens, Tim, A Cyberwar of Ideas? Deterrence and Norms in Cyberspace (2012). Contemporary Security Policy, Vol. 33, No. 1, pp. 148-170. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2100764

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