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From: Ben Nagy (beniagu.net)
Date: Fri May 24 2013 - 09:03:01 CDT
In the final determination, I have opted for prose, because my first
sonnet, in the Italian form, had already taken over an hour by the time
I got to construct the volta, plus I had ciabatta to make.
I am not going to take Dave's email apart by paragraphs, nor Halvar's
keynote slides, because not only am I disinterested in scoring 'points'
but I also feel that they both presented many interesting arguments,
several of which would reward your extended consideration. Sadly, most
of the parts that I found interesting were argued primarily, or were
isolated metaphors of their own, not inextricably linked to the
fundamentally faulty "New Navy" analogy. In other words they're right in
spite of a broken metaphor, not because of it. In particular privateers,
letters of marque, and 'what happens when your cyberweapon doesn't share
Why is it fundamentally flawed?
I - It's not an Ocean
There are two critical things about the Oceans - their size and their
topology. It is FAR to go from one port to another, and there are only a
certain number of ways you can go without pranging into rocks or getting
eaten by kraken or whatever. Those two fairly fundamental properties
underlie a great deal of human history and military strategy. Why can't
we just shell Mongolia from Miami? Because it's TOO FAR.
A corollary of being FAR is that it takes a while to get your gold bars
or F-35s or whatever from A to B, and during this time you are exposed
to attack. Not only that, your adversary has a fair idea of how you're
going to get to B and can just lurk around at C with a bunch of subs - a
fact the Germans exploited merrily in WWII until they had crypto
failure. The further corollary being that if you get a hole in your ship
at C ( C, right? Sea what I did there? ) then it sinks and you probably
die. All of this means that a substantial amount of "stuff that matters"
takes place in transit between A and B - ie at sea.
Contrast this with Cyberships. Cyberships move at a significant fraction
of the speed of light, they can get to their destination via countless
routes INCLUDING OUTER SPACE, and if one gets sunk, you can just send
another one. In other words, there is no meaningful distance, nor
meaningful topology. This doesn't break the 'Commons' analogy in and of
itself, it just renders it completely useless, because nothing
interesting happens in it.
II - ... so it doesn't need a Navy
So I don't want to be disrespectful to the fine women and men of the
Navy, nor understate the importance of Navies in modern military
strategy. But. What does a Navy do, in meatspace? First of all, it
carries stuff from one place to another, those places often being "out
of range" and "in range". Secondly, they make sure that all the stuff
you need for making war gets to where it's going.
How does that translate into Cyber? There's no distance. There's no
range. There's no supply chain of big, bulky items packed aboard
ridiculously vulnerable wallowy transport ships that need to make it
through a minefield while under attack by subs. What, then, would a
Cybernavy do, and how is it useful to compare it to a real one?
If it's reasonable, at all, to posit a military analogy, surely the Air
Force is a better one? Pilots have a very different recruitment,
education and training profile to basic naval personnel who, I
understand, mainly tie bowlines, swab decks and play the hornpipe. One
pilot is in charge of one fighter plane, which is a stupidly expensive
bit of kit, but it takes a huge team to maintain that weapon, design
improvements, paint the fierce little animals on the side ... or
whatever it is they do. I don't geek on war.
So, whatever cyber force gets built, it's not a Navy. It doesn't protect
the Commons, and it doesn't support logistics. It's essentially a
specialised tool for finding things out or for turning things off.
Basically, we started with 'The Commons' and that led us to "so
it's like the ocean, right?", at which point we could have saved a lot
of trouble by saying "No, Dave. No it's not." Anyway, now that it's like
the ocean, now we need some weapon thing, because the government buys
WEAPONS, they don't rent out boxer-clad, caffeine-swilling nerds who
have never SERVED their GODDAMN COUNTRY for a DAY in their MISERABLE
LIVES, right? So.. Ocean - Navy. Boom. This analogy stuff is easy!
III - ...and Cyber will never deter a committed adversary.
"I believe that cyber can replace nuclear (and has, to some extent
already) as a military deterrent." ~ Dave
As foreshadowed, this is where the most serious of my disagreements lie.
First of all, and I am not a military strategy guy, I don't think you
can _replace_ the nuclear deterrent unless everyone else gets rid of
theirs at exactly the same time. Correct me if I'm MAD or something.
Secondly, and this is where I will offend some people, let's look at
'deterrent'. One possible definition is 'offering a threat of
retributive harm which is sufficient to persuade against action'.
I don't think you can cyber a country with sufficient vigor that they
will throw up their hands and surrender, having started to do war in a
committed manner. You could sink a ship. You can turn off some of the
economy. You can make it impractical for Dave to be able to microwave
his burrito on some humid Miami afternoon. Maybe turn off his aircon.
That'd rile him up some, I bet. Hell you could probably halt all
production of Oreos, everywhere, FOREVER. Apocalypse.
Hey, look, you could kill some people. Probably civilians, which is not
only uncool, but doesn't actually make them surrender ( we learned this
with strategic bombing in WWII, over and over, on both sides, up until
... oh wait! nukes! ). My point being that only first world people with
massive reliance on technology and a low stomach for inconvenience are
honestly afraid of someone turning off the lights. How effective have
economic sanctions been? Trade embargoes? Asset freezes?
Maybe, MAYBE, you could convince me that it could be employed as a
military tool, as kind of a 'pre-war' leverage or bargain, like sending
troops to the Spratlys, or some friendly bombing over the Syrian border
or whatever - but to suggest that it would _replace_ the nuclear ( or
even military ) deterrent is just the final link in an ill-forged chain
And that is why I think that Dave is wrong, and why Halvar, who took off
from Dave's analogy is also wrong, but in different ways. Many of the
points that were made along the way are not wrong, however, because ( in
case you were unaware ) I have a great deal of respect for both of them,
and we get along fine in real life.
Remind me not be let myself be baited in this manner again. :/
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