De-escalation Pathways and Disruptive Technology: Cyber Operations as Off-Ramps to War

Cyber Peace: Charting a Path Towards a Sustainable, Stable, and Secure Cyberspace. Scott Shackelford, Frederick Douzet, and Chris Ankersen (Eds). Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming

47 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2022

Date Written: November 10, 2020

Abstract

Many suggest there are inherently revolutionary and transformational qualities of cyber operations as they relate to larger military campaigns. Yet, military revolutions are often hard to quantify and rely as much on people, processes, and institutions as they do new capabilities. Beyond their raw military potential, emergent capabilities like cyber operations are just one among many factors that shape strategic bargaining, a process often defined more by questions of resolve and human psychology than objective power calculations about uncertain weapons. When examined empirically, one finds that cyber operations are less transformative than many believe. Cyber operations tend to augment other instruments of power and function more as shaping activities - political warfare and intelligence - than a decisive battle. This chapter seeks to develop a theoretical logic for how strategic decision makers factor the use of cyber operations as a tool during crisis decision-making. When posed with a decision to escalate or dampen a crisis, cyber options provide decision-makers a method for signaling and low-level cost imposition that does not exacerbate tensions. Decision-makers tend to leverage cyber options as a method to manage escalation and decrease hostility. This chapter illustrates this logic through a wargame survey experiment and case study demonstrating the potential for cyber operations to provide an off-ramp away from war.

Keywords: Cyber Conflict, Cyber Escalation, Cyber Peace, substitution, wargames

Suggested Citation

Valeriano, Brandon G. and Jensen, Benjamin, De-escalation Pathways and Disruptive Technology: Cyber Operations as Off-Ramps to War (November 10, 2020). Cyber Peace: Charting a Path Towards a Sustainable, Stable, and Secure Cyberspace. Scott Shackelford, Frederick Douzet, and Chris Ankersen (Eds). Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3987259

Brandon G. Valeriano (Contact Author)

Marine Corps University ( email )

VA

Benjamin Jensen

Marine Corps University

2076 South Street
Breckinridge Hall
Quantico, VA 22134
United States

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