COIN, Not Deterrence, for Cyberwarfare

This week, the Wall Street Journal revealed that Pentagon strategists are completing a document that outlines the government's cyberwarfare strategy. The Pentagon is expected to publish an unclassified version next month. According to the Journal, Pentagon strategists are prepared to declare that a sufficiently damaging cyberattack against the United States could be viewed as an "act of war," warranting equivalent retaliation. And that retaliation would not necessarily be a U.S. cyber-counterstrike. As one official put it, "If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks." It is good that the government is finally establishing a doctrine for dealing with cyberwarfare. But strategists still must grapple with a challenging form of warfare that combines elements of Cold War-era deterrence theory and modern counterinsurgency doctrine.

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