Deterrence, Influence, Cyber Attack, and Cyberwar

Published in: New York University Journal of International Law and Politics, v. 47, no. 2, Winter 2014, p. 327-355

Posted on RAND.org on November 13, 2015

by Paul K. Davis

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Deterrence by itself is a fragile basis for strategic thinking. Thus, I start by placing deterrence within a broader framework of objectives and then discuss special features of the cyber attack challenge, distinguishing different classes and contexts of cyber threats. I then use a simple model to speculate about whether deterrence can be a significant part of dealing with those different threats. The model allows for very different degrees of "rationality" on the part of whoever is to be deterred. My discussion ends with suggestions for policymakers and scholars. My conclusion is that hoping for deterrence with today's reality would be like grasping for straws. Deterrent measures should definitely be part of a larger strategy, but the focus should be elsewhere.

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