Traditionally, security is viewed through military approach. Indeed, it does make sense. The 20th century is known for its ideological rivalry between two superpowers. Since nuclear confrontation represented a potential threat to peace, security notion was dominated by military factors. The central countries pursued its own interests, including the exploitation of the countries on the periphery for its own benefits. However, if we take current international, this traditional approach seems to be one-sided.
Yet, back in 90s, Buzan suggested that international security of the new century would be much “less dominated by military and political issues” (p. 433). Why so? Because there was no more Soviet Union, no arms race: it gave a way to other aspects of security.
Military threat has always been seen as special category, since it involves the use of force. The threat is posed by the military power of other states. It can impair the basic ability of the state to protect its people.
Nuclear powers, in this sense, pose an immense military threat to any country (particularly to nuclear-free). That is why the idea of nuclear non-proliferation is very attractive; it has wide support all over the world. Regardless, there was not much progress among the superpowers towards their own nuclear disarmament since the massive reduction in nuclear and strategic forces after the end of the Cold War. Conversely, for the last decade Russia has been strengthening its nuclear power. Similar calls have been recently made by the newly-elected president of the United States. Donald Trump suggested that America should expand its nuclear weapons program, thus, pursue peace through threat. As far back as in 90s, Buzan pointed out that the success or failure to reach nuclear-free world would greatly influence security and military relations (p. 443). The ambitions of North Korea show that not every country is ready to give up the ability to develop its nuclear arsenals. So, nuclear zero remains rather hard to achieve and nuclear threat persists.
However, as mentioned before, today’s security is not just about military threat (although it is significant). The world we live in is multi-polar, all of us are interconnected. Let’s say we live in a country, free from nuclear threat. Are we still secured from economic collapses or from the influence of climate change?
Economic security is about access to resources, finances and markets that are necessary to maintain political power and the high level of living. It is threatened when national economic system is weak. In this sense, developed countries are trying to maintain their standard of living, and developing countries are doing what they can to improve their own. In this environment international competition is quite strong. That is why strong nations may economically leverage weaker opponents in order to prevail militarily and technologically and achieve its political goals.
Meanwhile, economic threats are hard to identify because of its nature. For example, the recent economic crisis could be a good example. What should be tackled first has been debated for a long time. Now experts, researchers and politicians are arguing what should be done in order to prevent another economic blast. The economic sector clearly shows how different aspects interact with each other.
Moreover, economic and military security is interconnected. For instance, military budget can be constrained, limited or cut due to economic reasons. Furthermore, in the current framework of mutual economic interdependence and accelerated international trade, economic security might become the most significant one. If a state has more powerful economic security, it is easier to maintain other aspects of security. Vice versa, if a state has poor economy, it is hard to keep the national security strong, thus such a state may be leveraged.
Here the threat is posed by disruption of ecosystem and scarce recourses. Nowadays protection of environment plays a significant role in security agenda. In this sense, the recent Paris Agreement (2015) can be viewed as an attempt to strengthen countries’ security against the overwhelming “conditions that can threaten human existence on a large scale” (Buzan 1991, p. 450). A comprehensive climate policy, apart from the main goals to mitigate the effects of climate change, also addresses adaptation mechanisms to deal with loss and damage caused by global warming (See the Paris Agreement 2015).
The desire to maintain climate may give additional reasons for powerful developed countries to intervene in less developed countries under the name of environmental security. The relations between countries would be affected if the effects of climate change deepened. Natural disasters may inevitable become a driving force for human migration and this, in turn, would change the balance of power in the future.
Global warming threatens not just the way the people lead their lives, but the mere existence of humanity and the planet Earth. Diminishing capabilities of ozone layer to protect the planet can cause floods and fires, eliminate forests and plankton, ultimately causing countries to adapt and deal with the environmental issues in order to protect their state. Sussane Droge from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs points out that current interest in efficient climate policy is fueled by the obvious energy benefits (2016, p. 32). It means greater security and technological progress.
Political security concerns the stability of political systems and organizational stability of the state. If this aspect is weakened, it shutters the state as an entity. That is why it can be considered as important as military security. Here the state sovereignty is usually threatened.
The Human Development Report of 1994 places political security as one of the main categories of threats to human security (UNDP 1994, p. 25). Paradoxically, political sector is one of the most challenging. All threats can be viewed as political (See Jahn, Lemaitre & Waever 1987). So, for instance, under economic security, it is usually meant political-economic security, under military one – military-political security and so on.
However, the sector exists and usually consists of political threats. Buzan (1983) describes them as “pressuring the government on a particular policy, overthrowing the government, and disrupting the political fabric of the state” (p. 118), they aim to destabilize the government system and make it easy to perform a military attack.
The national identity and its ideology are a target of political threats. Interestingly, that new changes of the Russian military doctrine recognizes the rising of ideological clashes. They are carefully called “the competition of values and development models” (See “the Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation”). Such a statement admits ideological competitions and, consequently, reflects the difference of values between Russia and other countries.
All of aforementioned sectors are interlinked and have importance of their own. So when approaching international and national security, one must take them into account. So if we talk about survival of the state now, it depends not so much on military factors but as on the whole complex of factors (political, military, economic, and environmental). Theoretically speaking, if we are free from military threat, it does not mean that we are secured in other ways. The notion of security is way broader than just military approach.
Buzan, B. (1983). People, States and Fear: The National Security Problem in International Relations. Hertfordshire: Harvester Wheatsheaf.
Buzan, B. (1991). “New Patterns of Global Security in the Twenty-First Century”, International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944), 63:3, 431-451.
Droge, S. (2016). The Paris Agreement 2015 Turning Point for the International Climate Regime. Retrieved from <https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/196211/2016RP04_dge.pdf> on 27/12/16.
Jahn, E., Lemaitre, P., & Waever, O. (1987) European Security: Problems of Research on Non-Military Aspects. Copenhagen: Centre for Peace and Conflict Research.
“The Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation”. Approved by the President of the Russian Federation on February 5, 2010, Decree №146 (Edited in 2014). Retrieved from <http://kremlin.ru/supplement/461> on 02/01/2017.
UNDP (United Nations Development Programme). (1994). Human Development Report. Retrieved from <http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/reports/255/hdr_1994_en_complete_nostats.pdf> on 03/01/2017.
UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). (2015). The Paris Agreement. Retrieved from <http://unfccc.int/files/essential_background/convention/application/pdf/english_paris_agreement.pdf> on 26/12/16.
The History Question: Is It Better to Remember or to Forget?
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.
Is there such thing as cyberwar?
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.
On the issue of cyber security of critical infrastructures
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).
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.
Bradbury, D. (2012). SCADA: a Critical Vulnerability. Computer Fraud & Security, 4, p. 11-14.
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