It may not sound that way. At least, not yet. But keep in mind the Pentagon’s doctrine concerning cyberwarfare announced in 2011.
The Pentagon has concluded that computer sabotage coming from another country can constitute an act of war, a finding that for the first time opens the door for the U.S. to respond using traditional military force.
The Pentagon’s first formal cyber strategy, unclassified portions of which are expected to become public next month, represents an early attempt to grapple with a changing world in which a hacker could pose as significant a threat to U.S. nuclear reactors, subways or pipelines as a hostile country’s military.
In part, the Pentagon intends its plan as a warning to potential adversaries of the consequences of attacking the U.S. in this way. “If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks,” said a military official.
Now consider yesterday’s announcement concerning the Obama administration’s desire to launch a cyberattack on Russia:
The Obama administration is contemplating an unprecedented cyber covert action against Russia in retaliation for alleged Russian interference in the American presidential election, U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News.
Current and former officials with direct knowledge of the situation say the CIA has been asked to deliver options to the White House for a wide-ranging “clandestine” cyber operation designed to harass and “embarrass” the Kremlin leadership.
The sources did not elaborate on the exact measures the CIA was considering, but said the agency had already begun opening cyber doors, selecting targets and making other preparations for an operation.
So, by the USA’s own logic:
- Cyberwarfare is an act of war.
- Acts of war can legitimately be responded to by traditional military force.
- The Obama administration is considering cyberattacks on Russia.
- If Russia responds to those cyberattacks with traditional military force, its response will be legitimate.
Fortunately, as the article reveals, more sober and experienced CIA hands are dubious about the idea. Personally, I doubt the Obama administration will do anything at all before January, because Obama doesn’t want to do anything but play out the string before hitting the links and the lucrative speech circuit.
And in his position, isn’t that exactly what you would do?