Monthly Archives: September 2010

Can a Cyber Warfare Strategy be Defined?

By Eric Crownover, Center for Technology and National Security Policy

Binary Code

Cyber Warfare

Throughout history, those who have studied war have sought to understand the nature of warfare. Strategists have frequently written on the development of military strategy whether it focuses on the principles of warfare or on the influence technological advances (i.e. sea power, air power, and nuclear power) have had on the development of military strategy. The nature of warfare is constantly being revisited and cyber warfare is of great importance in the discussion of future warfare.

Military strategists must develop an understanding of how cyber capabilities can be used in military strategy. The United States Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) will need to attempt to address this problem. After achieving Initial Operating Capability in May of 2010, USCYBERCOM is expected to achieve full operational capability this October.

USCYBERCOM’s focus is to centralize cyberspace operations, strengthen Department of Defense cyber capabilities, and bolster DOD’s cyber expertise utilizing components from all branches of the military. Securing cyberspace is a main objective of the United States. In order to achieve this objective, USCYBERCOM along with other components must be proactive and develop a comprehensive understanding of cyber warfare.

According to the United States National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace, the United States is “now fully dependent on cyberspace.” Thus, the unimpeded successful functioning of cyberspace is crucial for everyday activities.  The threat has been identified but what now? Can the lessons of history help inform the development of a cyber strategy?

Military strategists have suggested that deterrence can be utilized in cyber warfare. Deterrence seeks to prevent a specific action from happening. For deterrence to work, the policymaker must understand what action will deter a specific actor. Even though a specific action has not occurred does it imply that deterrence worked? In order to apply deterrence to cyber warfare, who are the actors facilitating these incursions? What drives these actors? What actions will deter these actors? Deterrence has had historical value, but how or can the theory adapt to the cyber domain?

What is the difference between cyber warfare and cyber attacks? Clausewitz stated that war is an expression of politics by other means. Thus, war is an action between states. However, inherent to the attribution problem, is a cyber attack an attack perpetrated by an individual or is it cyber war perpetrated by a state? Cyber attacks occur over cyber networks; cyber attacks are not geographically bound; the networks are geographically bound but cyber attacks are a global capability. Thus, in order to create a strategy one must reliably discern the difference between a cyber attack and cyber war.

If cyber attacks and cyber war are discernible, can lessons learned from Thucydides and Sun-Tzu to present day nuclear strategists be applicable to cyber warfare? Or does a 21st century threat require unique 21st century thought?

Leave a comment

Filed under Energy, National Security Reform, Strategic Studies

Is Kim Jong Il Ready to Name a Successor?

By Katherine Walczak, Center for Strategic Research

Kim Jong Il with soldiers

Kim Jong Il

As rumors abound over Kim Jong Il’s failing health, the question as to who will take his place goes unanswered. Believed to have suffered a stroke two years ago, and looking increasing worse when pictured on a recent trip to China, Kim’s health will pose a major concern for North Korea’s future. His deteriorating health was, reportedly, the reason the Workers Party Congress planned for September 15 was postponed, which has been rescheduled for today.

North Korea’s Workers Party Congress has not been held since 1980, where Kim officially accepted his position as the leader of North Korea, meaning this meeting will likely address some important concerns about North Korea’s future. And it is believed that Kim will use this congress to name his son, Kim Jong-un, as his successor.

Kim has three sons, from two different women, all of whom have been considered as possible replacements for their father. Kim’s oldest son, Kim Jong-nam, was the likely choice to be the next leader until he fell from favor in May 2001 after being arrested at the Tokyo International Airport. Kim’s next son, Kim Jong-chul, originally thought to have been Kim’s next choice, has been reportedly overlooked for his younger brother. This leaves the position to Kim’s youngest son, Kim Jong-un.

Very little is known about Kim Jong-un. He’s thought to be 26-28 years old, he may or may not have attended school in Switzerland, and few photos are known to exist of him. Kim Jong-un also might face challenges from his brothers for his position or for positions of power within the government. If Kim Jong-un is chosen, his uncle, Jang Song Taek, will likely take up a regent role to guide the young leader. Kim Jong-un is said to be most like his father in temperament, yet many are unsure whether he will follow in his father’s footsteps as a leader.

North Korea’s future is uncertain, yet there are hopes that today’s Congress will address some of these issues. But even should Kim name a successor, questions still remain over who will be named and what type of leader they will be. Given that the last congress was postponed, there is no guarantee the congress will even be held today. There seem to be plans in the making for the future of North Korea, but these plans are shaky at best, leaving the rest of the world in the dark about what’s to come in North Korea.

Leave a comment

Filed under National Security Reform, Regional Studies, Strategic Studies

The Commonwealth Games, Terrorism and Major State War

 By Dr. Thomas F. Lynch III, Center for Strategic Research

Taj Mahal in New Delhi, India

Taj Mahal

When does an international sporting event double as a highly plausible prelude to major state war?  When the event is in India, when Islamic radicals in Pakistan have declared the event a coveted target for terrorism, and when already high tensions between India and Pakistan have risen precipitously over the course of a long, hot and exceedingly wet summer.  Welcome to the 2010 Commonwealth Games – beginning in New Delhi, India on October 3rd!

Despite their obscurity in America, the Commonwealth Games are truly a major international sporting spectacle. They are the fourth largest quadrennial sporting event in the world, behind only the Summer Olympics, the Soccer World Cup, and the Asian Games.  More than 4000 world class athletes along with tens of thousands of supporters and spectators from 54 countries that once comprised the British Empire  will compete in a mixture of seventeen summer Olympic sports and several ‘uniquely British’ sporting events.  The Games of 2010, held in New Delhi from October 3-14, are the first event of such magnitude hosted on the Indian subcontinent; and, more critically, in a nuclear armed state on high alert against its nuclear armed neighbor. 

Those now gathering in New Delhi, therefore, are at grave risk.

The risk of a terrorist strike at the 2010 Commonwealth Games is real, and has metastasized severely over the past few months.  Militant Islamist groups like Lashkar-e-Tayibbah (LeT) of Pakistan and Indian Mujihaddin (IM) in India have promised an attack of the Commonwealth Games for some time.  Last February, longtime LeT leader Ilyas Kashmiri  (now believed hole-up in western Pakistan’s tribal areas) threatened the Games with a dramatic strike.   The violence between Indian paramilitary units and Muslim youth in Kashmir that has killed more than 60 young Muslim protesters and injured hundreds of others over the course of the summer has fed a stream of anti-Indian propaganda in Kashmir and across Pakistan.  Passionate editorials in Pakistani newspapers and Friday sermons from many Deobondi Muslim mosques cry out for retaliation against India for taking innocent Muslim lives, inspiring young Pakistani radicals to volunteer for the attacks promised by Ilyas Kashmiri and championed by many more extremist groups.  Ominously, the massive civil relief effort demanded from the Pakistan military and intelligence agencies since the beginning of historic flooding in August has diverted resources and constrained resolve to closely monitor, much less effectively disrupt, covert preparations for a terrorist strike against the Commonwealth Games just as such preparations are likely to be culminating.    

Despite massive security preparations by an Indian anti-terrorism paramilitary and police establishment believed competent in many ways, but stung deeply by the carnage of Mumbai in 2008, the prospect for a catastrophe attack of these Commonwealth Games looms large.  On September 16, India’s indigenous IM movement took credit for the terrorist attack by two men on a motorbike that opened fire injuring two Taiwanese journalists in front of the Jama Masjid Mosque in New Delhi.  Should India’s security preparations fail and a strike against the Commonwealth Games traceable to Pakistan occur, historic Indian restraint would be at risk.  India has staked huge national pride in these Games, and the blow from a successful Islamist terror strike would be enormous.  Legendary Indian restraint – exercised in 2002 after the Islamist terror attack in the New Delhi parliament and after the 2008 Mumbai attacks – would be at risk.   Indian frustration with Pakistan’s ongoing failure to make good on its promise to successfully prosecute even one conspirator in the Mumbai attacks would amplify almost certain nation-wide cries to retaliate against Pakistan for its history of terror group support.   Groups from across India’s political spectrum would view any Indian retaliatory strike – even a limited conventional one against selected Pakistani targets – as overdue; and, the specter of uncontrollable escalation in retaliatory strikes between two nuclear armed neighbors could fall quickly into place.

Where does this leave outside observers, to include American policymakers?  Given that India’s security preparations are complete, and Delhi’s historic aversion to outside assistance in matters of its security business has minimized external involvement – without many options.  However, there are a couple of political and information-sharing actions that might help avert a worst-case scenario.   President Obama, Prime Minister Cameron, President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Hu Jintao should each call Prime Minister Singh to extend best wishes for a successful Commonwealth Games and to pre-commit the rapid deployment of any resources the Indian government might need in the event of a tragedy.  They should also call Pakistani President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani to remind them – and Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment – that any terrorism activity against the Commonwealth Games traceable to Pakistan is hugely unacceptable; and, that Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment should immediately and completely share information of potential plots with the Indians directly – or through western interlocutors – in a timely manner that foils terrorist plans before they can occur in Delhi .   These steps taken, those of us from nations without athletes in the 2010 Commonwealth Games need beware and keep our fingers crossed.    A most dangerous moment is at hand, but a positive outcome can yet be written.


Filed under Featured News, National Security Reform, Regional Studies, Strategic Studies

Is It Time to Talk about Democracy Again?

 By Scott P. Cullinane, Center for Strategic Research

Two women after having voted.

Photo courtesy of

After 9/11 the United States support for democracy became a center piece of the counter-narrative strategy against Al-Qaeda and despotic regimes. 

However, because of differing definitions of democracy between the US and other countries the strategy went off track.  The US’s “Freedom Agenda” expressed the belief that citizens of pluralistic and democratic nations do not support terrorism or seek out Weapons of Mass Destruction. 

The US maintained that if people around the world were given the chance to vote they would pick leaders who were responsible, and who would uphold democratic ideals.   This precept was undercut by the 2006 Palestinian legislative election that was won by HAMAS. The election preceded the violent takeover of the Gaza strip in 2007 by HAMAS.  Due to the extremist and anti-Semitic nature of HAMAS, the US condemned the election results. This action made America look hypocritical and diminished the credibility of the freedom narrative.

Despite “elections” being held in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan, American leaders have become wary of talking about freedom and democracy as they once did.   This is unfortunate because democracy is the foundation of America’s narrative and should not be abandoned. 

In Burma (Myanmar) the military junta is using so-called democracy to reinforce their power; Turkey just underwent a major debate about the nature of their democracy.  In many countries democracy is an immediate and vital political topic and America should not abrogate its leadership in this area. 

What America does need to do is to rephrase and better explain what is meant by “democracy.”   When American’s say “democracy”, they don’t just mean voting – they mean the freedoms and responsibilities that come with democracy.  They mean the involvement of interrelated and indispensable institutions, such as a free press, and a culture where the franchise is extended to all groups. Many nations and cultures misunderstand the connotations that are implied within the American lexicon.  

America would do better to articulate these points in its diplomatic and military engagements. If America can better explain this, our narrative of freedom would gain the traction and credibility it deserves.

Leave a comment

Filed under National Security Reform, Regional Studies, Strategic Studies