Making Strategic Sense of Cyber Power: Why the Sky Is Not Falling

  • April 01, 2013
  • Dr Colin S Gray

Cyber is now recognized as an operational domain, but the theory that should explain it strategically is, for the most part, missing. It is one thing to know how to digitize; it is quite another to understand what digitization means strategically. The author maintains that, although the technical and tactical literature on cyber is abundant, strategic theoretical treatment is poor. He offers four conclusions: (1) cyber power will prove useful as an enabler of joint military operationsl; (2) cyber offense is likely to achieve some success, and the harm we suffer is most unlikely to be close to lethally damaging; (3) cyber power is only information and is only one way in which we collect, store, and transmit information; and, (4) it is clear enough today that the sky is not falling because of cyber peril. As a constructed environment, cyberspace is very much what we choose to make it. Once we shed our inappropriate awe of the scientific and technological novelty and wonder of it all, we ought to have little trouble realizing that as a strategic challenge we have met and succeeded against the like of networked computers and their electrons before. The whole record of strategic history says: Be respectful of, and adapt for, technical change, but do not panic.