Book Review — The Evolution of Cyber War: International Norms for Emerging-Technology Weapons

The Evolution of Cyber War International Norms for Emerging-T... by Brian M. Mazanec

The Evolution of Cyber War: International Norms for Emerging-Technology Weapons by Brian M. Mazanec is a look at the history of international norms and the future of Cyber Warfare. Mazanec is an assistant director for defense capabilities and management with the U.S. government and an adjunct professor in the School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs at George Mason University. He is the coauthor of Deterring Cyber Warfare: Bolstering Strategic Stability in Cyberspace, and his work has appeared in Strategic Studies Quarterly, the National Cybersecurity Institute Journal, Comparative Strategy, Politics and the Life Sciences, and the Journal of International Security Affairs.

Cyber Warfare became a reality with the Stuxnet attack on Iranian centrifuges. A clever attack that was intended to go unnoticed and it almost did. The attacks slowed down Iran’s uranium enrichment program without causing any harm to the population. The possibility to attack a countries ability to make war or support war is a huge benefit. To do this without loss of life is a great accomplishment. The problem arises when the attack is not so covert and limited. An attack on a nation’s infrastructure or air traffic control could be disastrous and cause a large loss of life. The Y2K scare is a decade and a half removed from us and we are even more dependent on our interconnected computer networks.

Mazanec looks to see what would stop cyber warfare in the next conflict. To do this, he examines the history of unconventional warfare and the norms for their use. Chemical, biological, and nuclear warfare are looked at and examined as to their use and status today. Chemical warfare was early on seen as a clear and sanitary form of warfare. It was viewed as a much cleaner death than bullet and shrapnel wounds. Soldiers felt much different about this and chemical warfare to the largest extent did not exist after the first world war. There have been incidents such as in Syria, Iraq, and in the Iraq-Iran War. The first two of these have been heavily condemned by the world at large.

Biological weapons have been used for centuries mostly in the form of catapulting diseased bodies over city walls and or dropping them in wells. On a large modern scale, these weapons are undependable, hard to store, very unpredictable and of little use in modern warfare. On the nuclear side, there have only been two incidents on their use, both by the US in Japan. The horror of this weapon has prevented its use. Couple that with the tense Cold War any use of a nuclear weapon by any nation might have triggered an all-out nuclear war.

The world or man has been fairly successful in ending the use of these weapons in warfare. Other weapons have not so successful. There has been a crusade against landmines. Although terrible and even worse they often active remain after hostilities end. The 1992 Ottawa Treaty banned the use of antipersonnel landmines, The US, Russia, China, Iran, and India have not signed. These nations not only represent the lion’s share of the world’s military and population. Strategic bombing has been another area of concern. This brings warfare to civilian centers. These civilian centers, however, produce war material. World War II removed much of the controversy as the allies bombed Germany into submission and fired bombing Japan. We look at the death toll from Nagasaki and Hiroshima in horror and do not realize the firebombing of Tokyo produced roughly the same number of casualties. Strategic bombings have improved accuracy with the latest generation of smart bombs, but there are still civilian casualties.

Some weapons earn a reputation and are viewed as unusable by many in the world. The first use of any weapon of mass destruction is widely seen as impermissible. Israel could have, but did not use it nuclear weapons. India and Pakistan have been fighting on and off and neither has used their nuclear weapons. Chemical weapons have been condemned when used in Syria and in Iraq against the Kurds. In the Iran – Iraq War there was not much of an outrage, perhaps, it was because as Kissinger hope that they both could lose the war.

What does all this have to do with cyber warfare? Cyber warfare can be deadly and it has no precedence in warfare. Unlike nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons there is no need for technical labs and centrifuges, and factories to produce deadly chemicals. There is not even a need for a central location. Countries as backward as North Korea have cyber warfare units. The problem is so far the use of cyber warfare has not created a single human casualty. There are no international norms for its use.

Mazanec should have called his book The History of International Norms and the Future of Cyber Warfare. This book spends the bulk of its pages discussing and defining international norms for other weapons of war and leaves the reader at the doorstep of cyber warfare. Mazanec sets the stage for the reader on what may be the future of warfare.


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