Friday, January 25, 2019

There is no Escalatory Ladder in the Matrix

I'm still reading Bytes, Bombs and Spies, specifically the chapter where they define "OCO" to mean "Offensive Cyber Operations" and then riff on the concept of how command and control and escalatory ladders would exist in wartime, who would authorize what, how doctrine would evolve, etc.

I know the book is meant to at some level portray that policy can be strategically thought out in the unclassified space, but the deeper I get into it, the less I feel like it makes that point. What does a "constrained regional scope" mean in cyberspace? (note: It means nothing.)

If anything, what this book points out is how little value you can get from traditional political-science terms and concepts. Escalatory ladder makes little sense with a domain where a half-decade of battlefield preparation and pre-placement are required for attacks, where attacks have a more nebulous connection to effect, deniability is a dominant characteristic, and where intelligence gathering and kinetic effect require the same access and where emergent behavior during offensive operations happens far beyond human reaction time.


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  2. Your final paragraph is profound. It is a form of intellectual laziness to simply map a domain you understand over a domain you don't. It can be deadly also. It's as if these policy people have a map of the city of Frankfurt, Germany and they are busy discussing how to use it to navigate to the Grindelwald and climb the Eiger. The sad part is this behaviour is well known and observed throughout history but it continues to occur with each succeeding generation. As Taleb observes, "We don't learn that we don't learn."