‘Blog’

  • Blog
  • February 19th, 2018

Offensive Cyber Operations Endanger Us All

NATO cyber

There is increasing debate and concern over the actions of states and non-state actors alike in the cyber domain.  Annegret Bendiek and Ben Wagner, associates of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), outline key challenges and the dubious utility of offensive cyber operations in their article Making states responsible for their activities in cyberspace.

Ensuring the stability and integrity of the internet is a crucial goal for policy makers. In the words of the GGE [UN Group of Governmental Experts], it is a “key question for international peace and security.” – Annegret Bendiek and Ben Wagner

The two main methods of combatting cyber-security threats are:

  • “deterrence by resilience” — strengthening defenses and cyber infrastructure to ward off attacks; and
  • “deterrence by retaliation” — offensive responses to cyber-attacks.

While enhanced defensive measures can be highly beneficial, “deterrence by retaliation” can be challenged on many fronts, including effectiveness, legality and political legitimacy as well as the potential for serious “blowback”.

Many leading scholars have warned that the build-up of offensive capabilities only repeats the mistakes of the past. It fosters mistrust, leads to a new arms race and might even lead to the internet’s disintegration as states increasingly assert their sovereignty. – Bendiek and Wagner

As highlighted in an earlier Ceasefire.ca blog post, Canada’s new defence policy asserts Canada’s intention to go beyond much-needed enhancements of cyber defences to the “conduct of active active cyber operations against potential adversaries in the context of government-authorized military missions.”

But this new DND cyber mandate pales in comparison to the “vast mandate” outlined in Bill C-59 for the highly secretive Communications Security Establishment to carry out activities:

to degrade, disrupt, influence, respond to or interfere with the capabilities, intentions or activities of a foreign individual, state, organization or terrorist group as they relate to international affairs, defence or security. – Section 20 of the proposed Communications Security Establishment Act (CSE Act)

Such extraordinarily permissive language gives CSE the power not only to undermine fundamental rights and freedoms of Canadian citizens but also to contravene Canada’s international legal obligations.

Using the cyber domain as a battlefield is riddled with perils, with grave potential to undermine the reliability of the internet and the crucial infrastructure that it supports. Clearly our main objective now has to be

to encourage the development of an international order in which there are formidable restraints on the use of cyber force. – Lawrence Freedman

For the full article by Bendiek and Wagner, see: Making states responsible for their activities in cyberspace (The Security Times, February 2017).

Photo credit: NATO website

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  • Blog
  • February 12th, 2018

Nuclear Dangers and How to Dispel Them

Nuclear state flags

Now, after thirty years of an apparent easing of nuclear tensions since the end of the cold war, fear of nuclear war is real and pressing. – Professor Paul Rogers

In his latest article for Opendemocracy.net, A Quick Guide to Nuclear Weapons, Paul Rogers provides a much-needed primer in four parts:

  • A quick history of nuclear weapons
  • Today’s nuclear arsenals
  • The good news (and there is some!) and
  • The bad news and what to do about it.

Let’s start (for once) with the good news:

The bad news:

That is why the issue is so important — and why there is a need for much more discussion about and opposition to the belief that having the ability to kill tens of millions of people makes for a sane “defence” policy. – Paul Rogers

For the full article, click: A Quick Guide to Nuclear Weapons (Paul Rogers, Opendemocracy.net, 8 February 2018).

For another historical and current perspective see: Trump is leading us into nuclear war, says Daniel Ellsberg (interview of Daniel Ellsberg on his new book, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, by Anna Maria Tremonti on CBC’s The Current, 1 February 2018).  This is a superb, lengthy and engaging interview with the man most of us know only in connection with the Pentagon Papers.

 

Photo credit: Wikimedia and Jillian Hawley (collage of flags of 9 nuclear armed states)

[1] Out of 193 UN member states, there are 9 with nuclear weapons. The article correctly lists all 9 but incorrectly states the total to be eight!

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  • Blog
  • February 6th, 2018

Paul Rogers: Dangerous Signals in Trump’s State of the Union Address

Donald_Trump_State_of_the_Union_2018 (1)In this trenchant analysis, Professor Paul Rogers, who has been cataloguing the manifest failures of the “war on terror” since its inception, demonstrates how President Trump appears determined to continue this folly.

[George W. Bush] crafted not a new American century leading to a more peaceful world, but a wasteland: sixteen years of war, hundreds of thousands of civilians killed, millions of refugees fleeing their homes and livelihoods, states such as Afghanistan, Iraq and especially Libya wrecked, and expanding insurgency and insecurity across a vast swathe of territory. (Paul Rogers)

President Donald J. Trump appears utterly blind to this 16-year debacle. In a State of the Union address replete with blatant falsehoods, he references seemingly all that was hostile and misdirected in his republican predecessor’s rhetoric:

  • Pre-emptive and unilateral use of force is highlighted;
  • Guantánamo Bay — the veritable symbol of extra-legal methods — is to be kept open indefinitely; and
  • Failed and counterproductive military approaches in Afghanistan and elsewhere — indeed in every conflict theatre — are augmented.

This worldview has not worked since Bush’s address, and it won’t work in the future…. Trump’s signal in 2018 is that nothing has been learned since 2002. (Paul Rogers)

 

For the full article, click: A speech too far: Trump’s delusion (Paul Rogers, Opendemocracy.net, 1 February 2018).

Photo credit: Wikimedia

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  • Blog
  • January 29th, 2018

Real opportunities exist for great power cooperation on missile defence

 

Ernie_Regehr

If nuclear disarmament progress is to stand a chance, it is essential that the major nuclear powers find ways of defusing their dispute over missile defence.Ernie Regehr

In his timely Simons Foundation briefing paper,  BMD: Cooperative Protection or Strategic Instability, Ernie Regehr concludes that current western BMD deployments, whether NATO or USA, and encompassing the full range of systems from short-range to the U.S. strategic–range ballistic missile defence, are fueling strategic instability while bolstering Russia–China cooperation in air and missile defence.

And the more the Americans try to perfect their still faltering BMD technologies, the more their adversaries are inclined to fear missile defence as credible (if not yet, then possibly in the future), inclining them to retain and potentially expand their offensive arsenals.  It is an obsession/suspicion dynamic that is decidedly not conducive to mutual nuclear arms reductions.

Avoiding this “defence/offence arms race” requires reviving earlier once-promising efforts to promote cooperation, not competition, between great powers. Regehr cites a key recommendation of a 2016 Brookings Institution study which urges the USA to:

…work with China and Russia to ensure that development of a strategic missile defense system does not interfere with progress on strategic issues important to all three countries.

The paper also reviews the manifest technical failings of missile defence:

The doubts about the [U.S.] mid-course [strategic] BMD system extend across the whole gamut of missile defence manifestations…. [e]ven the most successful element of BMD, the Patriot short-range terminal defence system

Other issues canvassed include:

  • How economic considerations, in a word — jobs — keep money flowing to flawed defence projects, like BMD;
  • Setting the record straight on the elusive NORAD–BMD linkage;
  • The fact that Alaska-based missile intercept attempts by the USA to protect the central or eastern USA will have to take place in outer space over Russian territory; and
  • An illuminating review of past efforts at US–NATO–Russian cooperation on ballistic missile defence.

For the full article, click: BMD: Cooperative Protection or Strategic Instability (Ernie Regehr, Canadian Defence Policy Briefing Paper, Simons Foundation, January 2018).

Photo credit: Simons Foundation

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  • Blog
  • January 22nd, 2018

Nuclear Deterrence does not deter.

epa04973097 A handout picture made available by the defence ministry's official website on 11 October 2015 shows, a mid-range surface-to-surface Emad (Assertiveness) missile being launched at an undisclosed location in Iran. Media reported that Iran has successfully test-fired a mid-range surface-to-surface Emad (Assertiveness) missile, Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan said on Sunday 11 October 2015 in Tehran. EPA/HO *** Local Caption *** 52301455

Nuclear deterrence is a myth and a lethal one at that.

Nuclear deterrence continues to dominate international relations. Yet there is no proof it ever worked, nor that it ever will… “(David P. Barash, Guardian.com, 14 January 2018)

According to recent articles in the New York Times and Huffington Post, President Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review will propose many more uses for nuclear weapons than has hitherto been the case.

That is why the examination by David P. Baresh of the alleged justifications for nuclear deterrence is such a timely one.

He starts with a central point that is often overlooked:

“Importantly, deterrence became not only a purported strategy, but the very grounds on which governments justified nuclear weapons themselves. Every government that now possesses nuclear weapons claims that they deter attacks by their threat of catastrophic retaliation.” [emphasis added]

But what is the evidence that nuclear weapons do, in fact, deter attacks? The USA and Russia never fought a war prior to the nuclear age. The Cold War record is glaringly absent of evidence that either side wanted to go to war. And while it is possible that the post-1945 US–Soviet peace came ‘through strength’, that need not imply nuclear deterrence but sufficient conventional armaments to discourage adventurism. And as for the Cuban Missile Crisis:

“The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 — when, by all accounts, the world came closer to nuclear war than at any other time — is not testimony to the effectiveness of deterrence: the crisis occurred because of nuclear weapons. It is more likely that we have been spared nuclear war not because of deterrence but in spite of it.”

So while the evidence is sketchy that nuclear weapons kept the peace between the Soviet Union and the USA during the Cold War, it is indisputable that they did not prevent other forms of war.

During the Cold War, each side engaged in numerous conventional wars. Nor have their weapons deterred attacks upon nuclear-armed states by non-nuclear opponents. For example:

–          China in support of North Korea in 1950;

–          Argentina attacking the British-held Falkland Islands in 1982; and

–          Iraq lobbing Scud missiles at Israel in 1991.

Deterrence, in short, does not deter.

Baresh also goes on to demonstrate how nuclear weapons are spectacularly unsuccessful as instruments of coercive diplomacy:

“In Nuclear Weapons and Coercive Diplomacy (2017), the political scientists Todd Sechser and Matthew Fuhrmann examined 348 territorial disputes occurring between 1919 and 1995. They used statistical analysis to see whether nuclear-armed states were more successful than conventional countries in coercing their adversaries during territorial disputes. They weren’t.”

But the evidence against the utility of nuclear deterrence is only part of the problem. One must also consider the extraordinary risks associated with nuclear deterrence from escalation, miscalculation, accident, unauthorized or irrational use, or false alarms.

“The above describes only some of the inadequacies and outright dangers posed…. when it comes to nuclear deterrence, we’re all in over our heads.”

Click here for the full article.

For an even deeper analysis, see: The Myth of Nuclear Deterrence (Ward Wilson, Non-Proliferation Review, Vol. 15, No. 3, November 2008)

 

Photo credit: Wikimedia.

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