Deterrence Stability in the Cyber Age

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Technical and operational realities make it prohibitively difficult to adapt a Cold War paradigm of “deterrence stability” to the new domain of cyber warfare. Information quality problems are likely to forestall the development of a cyber equivalent of the strategic exchange models that assessed deterrence stability during the Cold War. Since cyberspace is not firmly connected to geographic space the way other domains are, modeling is extremely difficult, muddling the neat conceptual distinctions between “counterforce” (military) and “countervalue” (civilian) targets. These obstacles seriously complicate US planning for a credible cyber “assured response” and present substantial challenges to potential adversaries contemplating cyber attacks against US interests. To create a maximally effective deterrent against cyber threats, the United States should seek to maximize the challenges for possible opponents by creating a cyber “strategy of technology,” emphasizing resilience, denial, and offensive capabilities.

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