Military Escalation in Cyberspace: Myth or Reality? An Analysis of the Necessary Conditions to Reduce the Likelihood of Military Escalation in Cyberspace.
- Submitted in partial fulfillment of the degree Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Abstract: This paper contributes to the discussion by reviewing recent case studies of military operations in cyberspace and identifying conditions that help reduce the likelihood of military escalation in cyberspace. Victims of offensive operations generally responded in... read morea proportionate manner that gave little reason for escalation. The case studies indicate that the most severe causes of military escalation in cyberspace originate outside of cyberspace, namely in geopolitical disputes and large-scale military confrontation between adversaries. Therefore, it is evident that military cyber operations do not occur in a vacuum; they are affected by larger geopolitical trends, regional developments, internal political developments, and individual threat perceptions. For this reason, while a narrow and technical discussion about military operations in cyberspace is important, the debate about military escalation in cyberspace needs to become part of the larger field of international relations research and policy analysis in order to be truly effective at identifying means to properly address this challenge. The key conditions identified in this paper to reduce the likelihood of military escalation in cyberspace are divided into several levels. On the state level, key conditions include: governmental transparency about military operations in cyberspace and extensive confidence-building measures on states’ military operations in cyberspace. On the global level, key conditions include: the existence of effective conflict prevention mechanisms, a precise understanding of how public international law applies to military operations in cyberspace, and the extent to which law limits military operations in cyberspace. On the cross-cutting level, key conditions include: an increase in globalization and economic interdependence among nations and a higher threshold for success for attackers in cyberspace.read less