Saturday, September 1, 2018

Joe Nye's latest Norms Piece

The US cyber world appears in disarray. Between the Chinese and the Russians getting super aggressive, our constant bleating about cyber norms sounds like the distress signal a lone sheep sends out when the rest of the flock has been lost to wolves.  The latest example of this is Joe Nye's paper this week on the Normative Restraints on Cyber Conflict.

The waffling starts in the Abstract with a Trumpian "Many observers have called for laws and norms to manage the growing cyber threat". Norms are deeply about established practice and the one thing you can count on any norms paper (and there are a LOT of them) to do is carefully avoid any deep discussion as to what the established practices really are.

I'm not going to pull punches: This Joseph Nye paper is a boatload of wishful thinking. It's an exemplary example of extraneous exposition and I read it carefully so you don't have to. But where I know the outside world hears weakness and withdrawal, I have different ears and hear distant Wakandan drums.

You wouldn't know it from our policy papers, but this is a period of reconstitution. While change and re-balance is no doubt a part and parcel of the cyber landscape, I think the world will be surprised at what uncloaks when this interlude is over.

1 comment:

  1. Much of the commentary on norms confuses norms and law, wishing that the former could become the latter. There is also a reluctance to see that states will do what is in their interest, so that the most important factor behind any limits on the use of a weapon is its effectiveness in helping a state achieve its goals. Hence, no nukes have been used since 1945 and technologically advanced countries have not used chemical weapons against each other since 1918.

    But putative norms against strategic bombing begun before World War I failed and chemical weapons have been used by the Italians and Syrians against opponents who could not respond.

    As to cyber weaponry, it is too useful for meaningful limits. And the harm it can do remains theoretical, unlike the weapons used in Flanders and Hiroshima. Moreover, the Russians and Chinese, among others, seek different limits than the United States has and Europe does. Each of these two sides wants limits that address its weaknesses but leave it otherwise unfettered.