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Want Peace? Study War!

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International Security Studies have traditionally focused on military matters and the use of force, as for example strategy, defense, war studies and national security. One of the contemporary debates around this subject is whether the centrality of war is still relevant on the security agenda. In this article, I will try to present both views, pro and contra.

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Source: Jayel [email protected]

I will start by agreeing to the suggestion that the threat of war ought to still be the main theme of Security Studies and security policy making. The first argument has to do with the discipline itself. Since it is difficult to separate it from the larger International Relations, the main objective of this discipline too was to avoid the recurrence of a conflict like World War I. Leaving aside the distinctions between the schools of thinking, the threat of war led the field through the Cold War and beyond. It was World War II that proved the potential recurrence of big power conflict and this stabilized the discipline around war. Following this logic, by taking out the military as primary factor, the discipline itself would either disappear or evolve dramatically into something else. With the incorporation of Human Rights and International Development into Security Studies via Human Security, the term ‘security’ itself can lose strength. If all threats to security are put high on the agenda, prioritizing is absent and there will never be enough political will to tackle everything.

Second, even if we accept that war is no longer conceivable among Western democracies, it must be due to having the challenge of avoiding conflict high on the agenda. Whether we think about the US protection of Western Europe against the Soviet expansion through a stabilizing agent like NATO, or about eliminating divergences among Europeans states through common institutions and free trade, the aim was peace and security defined as absence of war or its threat. In my opinion, if scholars and policy-makers shift away radically from trying to solve the puzzle of security in military terms, there is a great risk that the horrors of the past will be forgotten and thus can repeat themselves.

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Source: Les [email protected]

Finally, the products of the academia must be relevant to the policy-making. States still consider the threat of war as up to date and still invest a lot in the military sector. The study of any national security strategy reveals how the use of force is indispensable. Whether it is considered as a unilateral tool, or a tool that needs international support or at least consensus in the case of Europe’s CFSP, the fact remains that national security strategies put a lot of focus on violent conflict. Thus, a discipline of Security Studies that revolves around human rights, social injustice, and other human security issues would in the best case produce policy proposals that do not consider the demand of political leaders and so it will not be taken into account. In the worst case, it will be picked up and used as sugar-coating for militarist purposes and ‘defiant unilateralism’.

Now the real question would be why do states still contemplate military engagement and war? The answer must be related to the threats. Even proponents of soft or smart power agree that the use of force is not obsolete. It is just changing due to nuclear proliferation and the emergence of non-state combatant actors. Terrorism, WMD and global criminal networks are still the main challenges of a country like the US, alongside with climate change, pandemic disease and cyber-security. Moreover, radical proposers of liberal imperialism even prescribe the use of double-standard and of the ‘laws of the jungle’ when dealing with the pre-modern world. Security can also be seen as the ability of a political elite to project power and control over a territory. This is the sovereignty interpretation of security, which requires border protection in order for the state itself to survive. The threat of war is perpetual in the minds of leaders and in the minds of the population who delegate military power to them.

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Source: Peter [email protected]

With regard to the opposing camp, the claim is that war and the threat of war have seen a decline in international affairs and consequentially the focus of Security Studies ought to shift away from the military area. The first argument to support this claim has to do with the fast reduction in the number of interstate conflict after the end of the Cold War and its replacement by intrastate ones. In this case, the civilian population is part of the equation and non-state actors cannot be easily identified. Therefore, another approach is required when suggesting security policies. One that differs from classical ones, in the sense that it avoids putting military calculations on top of the list. Negotiations or even non-intervention are considered by the international community as instruments to end such conflicts since doing the contrary would sometimes create complications. Moreover, the EU’s global engagement through economic aid and commercial incentives is seen as a more effective way of altering the behaviour of actors and contributing to stability in the world.

Having touched on the economic side of the global order, we must present the second argument which is the vital place of economy in ensuring international stability. International economic security is seen here as the maintenance of the current liberal order, rather then the creation of an alternative one which would incorporate human security values. Tariffs and trade wars, energy leverage, the vulnerability of the monetary system can all have an immense destructive scale to the ‘economic well-being of billions of individuals’. Such scenarios turn the page from military power to the economic power of states. The most interesting instrument of economic power appears to be sanctions. Trade sanctions, travel bans but also positive sanctions like tariff reductions and aid can be applied against state and non-state actors in order to affect political behaviour. Relations based on economic self-interest, interaction and interdependence seem to be a solution to stability for Security Studies’ scholars ,without resorting to military action.

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Source: Pamela [email protected]

Finally, there is the most recent argument centered around the concept of Human Security. This concept goes beyond statism and national security interpretations. It drops the focus on the threat of military aggression towards governments, in favour of analysis around the protection of individuals against any type of situations and threats that could endanger their ‘survival, livelihood and dignity’. The aim of Human Security Studies is the emancipation, equality and freedom of all human beings, which would eventually lead to universal values like peace, fairness and justice. The empirical proof of the ascendancy of Human Security on the agenda is the UN’s project of the Millennium Development Goals. The ambitious list includes eradication of poverty and hunger, universal education, gender equality, improvement of global health and environmental sustainability. However, the deadline for achieving all these is one year from now and the limited success gives us a bleak glimpse into the governments’ true interest in humanitarian causes.

Staff of United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia

Source: United Nations [email protected]

In conclusion, to my mind, the balance is leaning towards a continued importance of war and its threat in the security community. Military conflict is impregnated in the collective memory and the atrocities of war cannot be so easily put aside. Generations change but skepticism continues to persist in the face of contemporary invasions, land occupations and failing states. However, one must recognize the change in the international order and the increasing strength of other issues and necessities that affect the everyday lives of humans, regardless of nationality. Rights and freedoms, social justice, economic opportunity and the right to have a long, healthy life are being required more and more in international fora. Their satisfaction are indispensable to stability and prosperity which in turn could keep weapons down. But the weapons will always remain at hand.

References and further reading:

  • Cooper R., The new liberal imperialism, Observer Worldview Extra, 7 April 2002;

  • National Security Strategy, May 2010, The White House

  • Nossel S., Smart Power. Reclaiming Liberal Internationalism, Foreign Affairs, Volume 83 No. 2, 2004;

  • Nye J., The Future of Power, 2011, Public Affairs New York;

  • Rees W., The US-EU Security Relationship, 2011, Palgrave Macmillan;

  • Smith M., International Security. Politics, Policy, Prospects, 2010, Palgrave Macmillan;

  • UN Millennium Project, website: http://www.unmillenniumproject.org/goals/;

  • United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security, Human Security in Theory and Practice. Application of the Human Security Concept, 2009, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UN.

  • US Constitution, website: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html

 

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The History Question: Is It Better to Remember or to Forget?

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Years ago, a philosopher by the name of George Santayana said a phrase that fuels many debates to this day. His original saying is “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, although, many sources now present it as variations of “those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it”. The latter definitely has more substance to it in the light of the ongoing debate about how much history we should be learning and how.

Is It Better to Remember or Forget About the Past?

On one hand, Santayana was right. Learning about the past is essential in order for people to progress. One also shouldn’t overlook the importance of remembrance and paying respects to the dead, both those who pushed the progress forward and those who have fallen victims to major tragedies that could and should have been averted.

The main argument in favor of learning about the past is that its knowledge is necessary for preventing the same thing happening in the future. Having it one can see the signs and stop the tragedy before it gains momentum.

That’s sound in theory, but the reality is always different. For example, today people are surely forgetting, and the much-critiqued education system is only partially at fault here. Even the greatest of tragedies weren’t spared this fate. It’s a proven fact that about two-thirds of millennials today don’t know about the Holocaust, and this number is surely greater for generations that follow them. In the school history course, the subject of one of the greatest disasters in history is barely touched, if touched at all. And outside of a history classroom, one can only see small, but terrifying, glimpses of it at the Holocaust Museum and other museums that rarely attract many visitors. And now we are witnessing a rise of antisemitic crime.

Are these two facts related? Does the lack of awareness about the horrors done in the name of Aryan supremacy contribute to the fact that right-winged extremists seem to be gaining popularity again?

It does, but by how much? That is the question that no one can truly answer.

And what about other genocides? The Holocaust had the highest death toll, but it was far from the only genocide in history. And quite a few of those happened after World War 2 and before the memory of the atrocities against the Jews began to fade. This means that while forgetting history is a factor, it’s not the deciding factor in its repeats.

But what is that thing responsible for the reenactment of past mistakes and tragedies?

Learning. This is the important thing that is most often overlooked when citing Santayana’s famous saying. It’s not enough to learn about the past and know the facts of things that happened. It’s important to learn from those facts and put in place protections that will prevent them from happening again. And this is something that humanity, as a whole, has yet to succeed in doing.

Dwelling in the Past Can Be Just As Bad

One also shouldn’t forget that there is such a thing as “too much history”. The Bosnian War and genocide that happened there in the 1990s is a vivid example of how the past can be exploited by political powers. Used as a part of propaganda, which fueled the war, history can become a weapon in the hands of those who want to use it for their own goals.

And this is what humans have been doing since the dawn of time. There is always someone who will use any means necessary to achieve whatever it is they wish. This results in wars and genocides, and hundreds of smaller but no less devastating tragedies.

Therefore, the problem isn’t whether people should be learning history but human nature itself. Perhaps, teaching this can help fix this fundamental flaw and truly stop the worst of the past from repeating.

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Is there such thing as cyberwar?

Alexandra Goman

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Two decades have passed after Arquilla and Ronfeldt in 1993 warned the public about an upcoming. They were also the first to introduce a concept of cyberwar and give an elaborated opinion. They referred to a conduct and preparation of military operations using information-related principles and also invoked a link between intelligence (the collection of information for political or military purpose) and cyber operations. Now, the scale of intelligence has significantly expanded.

Interestingly, before cyber appeared, there was a radio which was used for intelligence purposes and was weaponized later in the World War II. From that time on, electronic warfare became standard characteristics of a modern conflict. Despite this, there is a key difference between electronic warfare and a cyber one. Traditional electronic warfare aimed to guide, target, or protect weapons systems (Ibid., p. 24). In contrast, cyber makes today’s weapons and military systems smarter but also more vulnerable for an attack.

At the moment everyone still wonders what the whole idea of cyberwar means. There is no accepted interpretation or definition. Furthermore, many experts even say that such war does not even exist (or cannot be referred to the notion of “war”). Perhaps, it is due to the fact that a war in cyberspace has not yet happened. To make it clear, cyber capability has not actually killed anyone and a code has not been used as the use of force.

Similarly, the dangers of a nuclear bomb were recognized only after its use, the same goes to the notion of “nuclear war”. Although there have been many cyberattacks, none of them have been raised to the level of war because none of them, in fact, caused the level of damage which could be adhered to the level of a large-scale conflict.

Cyber warfare has derived from different aspects of conventional warfare and traditional definitions of war. It usually involves organized units within nation-state in offensive or defensive operations which are part of a war or a conflict.

In general, since cyber study is relatively new, there are many competing terms and definitions to explain cyber phenomenon. The following concepts – the revolution in military affairs, electronic warfare, information warfare, and cyber war – have been all offered to describe the new emerging area of conflict. Experts do not agree on any particular term, more often using different notions when talking about cyber issues. Nonetheless, it is vital to understand the facts of the 21st century similarly to the need that rose along with the invention of atomic reaction. A major concern now is no longer weapons of mass destruction, but weapons of mass disruption. (2009, p. 47).

One of the central elements to define a cyberwar, is that it has to meet the same criteria, applied to any other type of war. Vandalism or spying is an act of crime, but they do not start wars. So, assumingly, there has to be physical destruction and casualties in order to declare a war.

Therefore, a cyberwar should have real world damage similar to a conventional war. For this matter, it should probably take place in a digital world. What is not clear, however, is whether it should be fought exclusively in cyberspace or it can accompany a conventional attack too. This aspect is quite interesting, because cyberattacks can easily be used in combination with a kinetic attack and can multiply the force and power of the attacker.

In this case, it does not make sense to create a new term “cyberwar” as it falls down under the same definition of war. It is the same example when aerial bombings supported the attacks on the ground during the World War I, but in the end we called it a war, not a particular type of war. Consequently, cyber introduction resembles more a revolution in military affairs, rather that a new emerging type of warfare.

What is clear, though, is that the difference in definitions complicates the matters of regulating cyberspace and prevents achieving a common ground on cyber issues and/or developing new treaties and agreements between the states. So far there is no international agreement on the cyber principles, despite some attempts of the states to engage into negotiations (Budapest Conference on Cyberspace, the World Conference on International Telecommunications). There is, however, the Convention on Cybercrime, the first international agreement that addresses compute crime, adopted by the Council of Europe. Interestingly enough, Russia (as a part of the Council) neither signed nor ratified the agreement, whereas US (not part of the Council) recognized it and ratified it.

Apart from these difficulties in defining cyberwar, there has been a hyperbolic use of the word itself, mostly by media and tabloids (e.g. The Washington Post, “We are at cyberwar and we are our own enemy”; The New York Times, “How to prevent Cyberwar”; Zdnet, “Cyberwar: a guide to the frightening future of online conflict”; Komsomolskaya Pravda, “Are we expecting the First World Cyberwar?” etc.). They do not usually give any concrete information but are eager to use this term and apply it randomly to different cases just because it sounds good.  All in all, uninformed public use of the word has enormously contributed into the heat surrounding cyber implications.

Futher, cyberattacks are too often discussed equivalently, regardless of its impact. In this sense, minor cases like ransomware or phishing might be raised to the level of an armed attack (especially if they affect multiple computers worldwide). Yet, these cases are good examples of cybercrime, and crime is not a war. When individuals engage into this type of activity, they do not engage in a war.  The same goes for espionage in cyberspace. Catching a spy on one’s territory will certainly put pressure on bilateral relations, but it would not start a war.

This exaggeration of cyberattacks can be explained through securitization theory. The notion offered by the Copenhagen Security School describes how a certain concept can be politicized and securitized to the extent that it becomes a threat to national security (See Buzan, 2006).

To conclude, it should be mentioned that there is no guidance for the conduct of “cyberwar”.  There are no internationally agreed definitions and, to that extent, the whole idea of cyberwar so far seems unrealistic. At this moment technology is not sophisticated enough to ensure a military conduct entirely in cyberspace. Besides, any cyberattack of such scale would presumably result in a physical destruction, which consequently might provoke a conventional retaliation attack. This, in result, would cause a war we know for years, so there is no need to introduce a particular type of war. On another note, using cyber operations to support a conventional war and/or conflict is the way to go, but in this case it is just a revolution and modernization in military affairs.

I would be interested to hear your opinion about that in the comments below.

For further information see:

1)    A movie “War Games” (1983)

2)    Arquilla, J. and Ronfeldt, D. (1993). The Cyberwar is Coming! RAND Corporation, [online] Available at: https://www.rand.org/pubs/reprints/RP223.html

3)    Cetron, M. J. and Davies, O. (2009). Ten critical trends for cyber security. The Futurist, 43(5), pp. 40–49.

4)    Stiennon, R. (2015). There Will Be Cyberwar: How The Move To Network-Centric War Fighting Has Set The Stage For Cyberwar. Michigan: IT-Harvest Press.

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On the issue of cyber security of critical infrastructures

Alexandra Goman

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There is a lot of talk in regards to cyberattacks nowadays. A regular user worries about its data and tries to secure by all means necessary. Yet, no one really thinks whether the power plants or nuclear facilities are well secured. Everyone assumes that they should be secured.

The reality, however, differs. According to many reports of cyber security companies, there is an increased risk of cyberattacks, targeting SCADA and ICS. Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) is used for the systems that control physical equipment – power plants, oil and gas pipelines, they can also control or monitor processes such as heating or energy consumption. Along with Industrial Control Systems (ICS) they control critical elements of industrial automation processes. Exploiting vulnerabilities of critical infrastructures can lead to the consequences of unimaginable scale. (These types of attacks are actually used in a cyberwar scenarios and hypothetical military settings).

Source: Fortinet, 2015

There are many reasons why these systems are vulnerable for attacks. First of all, the main problem is that these systems have an old design; they were built before they were connected to any networks. They were later configured to connect via Ethernet, and that’s when they became a part of a larger infrastructure. The more advanced SCADA system is becoming, the more vulnerabilities are these to exploit. The updates should be regular and on time. Secondly, there is a lack of monitoring. New devices that are connected allow remote monitoring, but not all devices have the same reporting capabilities. There are also authentication issues (weak passwords, authentication process), however, this is supposed to restrict unauthorized access (See Common SCADA Threats and Vulnerabilities at Patriot Technologies, Inc. Online).

In these scenarios, there is no certainty to know what is going to backfire because of the complexity of communications and power networks. This is also called a cascading effect of attacks. Not knowing who is connected to who may cause major disruptions. The example of the US East Coast power blackout in 2003 proves this point (a failure in one element of the grid spreads across other electrical networks). However, given this, it is also complicated for an attacker to predict consequences, if an attack executed. This kind of attack can easily escalate into more serious conflict, so it might not be the best option for states to employ such methods.

Moreover, there is a risk to damage a critical infrastructure unintentionally. That is if a virus or worm did not intend to target SCADA but happen to spread there as well. The uncontrollability of the code may seriously impair the desire to use it, especially when it comes to nation-states. For instance, in 2003 a worm penetrated a private network of the US Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station and disabled a safety monitoring system for 5 hours. In 2009, French fighter jets could not take off because they were infected with a virus.

Indeed, a scenario where an attacker gains access to a SCADA system and manipulates with the system, causing disruptions on a large-scale, might be hypothetical but it does not make it less possible in the future. However, the only known case so far, which affected an industrial control centre, is Stuxnet. It did not result in many deaths, yet it drew attention of the experts on the plausibility of future more sophisticated attacks. These potential upcoming attacks might cause the level of destruction, comparable to that of a conventional attack, therefore resulting in war.

Further reading:

Bradbury, D. (2012). SCADA: a Critical Vulnerability. Computer Fraud & Security, 4, p. 11-14.

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