Table of Contents

Table of Contents

George Perkovich and Ariel E. Levite Free download

I. What Are Cyber Weapons Like?

  1. Intelligence in Cyber—and Cyber in Intelligence
    Michael WarnerFree download
  2. Nonlethal Weapons and Cyber Capabilities
    Lt. Gen. Robert E. Schmidle Jr. (USMC, Ret.), Michael Sulmeyer, and Ben BuchananFree download
  3. Cyber Weapons and Precision-Guided Munitions
    James M. ActonFree download
  4. Cyber, Drones, and Secrecy
    David E. SangerFree download

II. What Might Cyber Wars Be Like?

  1. Cyber War and Information War à la Russe
    Stephen BlankFree download
  2. An Ounce of (Virtual) Prevention?
    John ArquillaFree download
  3. Crisis Instability and Preemption: The 1914 Railroad Analogy
    Francis J. GavinFree download
  4. Brits-Krieg: The Strategy of Economic Warfare
    Nicholas A. LambertFree download
  5. Why a Digital Pearl Harbor Makes Sense . . . and Is Possible
    Emily O. Goldman and Michael WarnerFree download

III. What Are Preventing and Managing Cyber Conflict Like?

  1. Cyber Threats, Nuclear Analogies? Divergent Trajectories in Adapting to New Dual-Use Technologies
    Steven E. MillerFree download
  2. From Pearl Harbor to the “Harbor Lights”
    John ArquillaFree download
  3. Active Cyber Defense: Applying Air Defense to the Cyber Domain
    Dorothy E. Denning and Bradley J. StrawserFree download
  4. “When the Urgency of Time and Circumstances Clearly Does Not Permit . . .”: Pre-delegation in Nuclear and Cyber Scenarios
    Peter Feaver and Kenneth GeersFree download
  5. Cybersecurity and the Age of Privateering
    Florian EgloffFree download

George Perkovich and Ariel E. LeviteFree download


Cyber collisions are becoming more frequent and destructive. From the freezing of Estonia’s internet, to the sabotage of Iran’s uranium enrichment program, to the hacking of the U.S. election campaign, and the WannaCry and NotPetya attacks, cyber weapons are no longer novelties. They are an increasingly prevalent and important tool of coercion.

To come to grips with the implications of cyber power, policymakers as well as scholars and average citizens naturally turn to historical comparisons. Many analogies are widely invoked - the role of railways in hastening World War I, Cold War information operations, and the use of drones in combatting terrorists are only a few. Analogies are also used to inform policies to prevent or defeat conflict: Is deterring cyber attack similar to deterring nuclear or conventional war? Could cyber-enabled economic warfare be more effective than earlier forms of economic conflict? Is it possible to effectively defend against cyber attack?

The chapters in this volume, written by eminent scholars and recent government officials, shed light on how different analogies inform and misinform our understanding of cyber weapons, cyber conflict, and emerging strategic thinking. The concluding chapter summarizes some of the unique features and challenges of cyber conflict, and offers insights for policymakers around the world navigating the new cyber terrain.

James M. Acton is the codirector of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

John Arquilla is a professor and the chair of defense analysis at the US Naval Postgraduate School, a former analyst at the RAND Corporation, and a consultant to senior leaders during Operation Desert Storm, the Kosovo War, and other conflicts. His books include In Athena’s Camp (RAND, 1997), Networks and Netwars (with David Ronfeldt, RAND, 2001), and Afghan Endgames: Strategy and Policy Choices for America’s Longest War (edited with Hy Rothstein, Georgetown University Press, 2012).

Stephen Blank, a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, is a former professor of national security studies at the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Ben Buchanan is a postdoctoral fellow at the Cyber Security Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Dorothy E. Denning is a distinguished professor of defense analysis at the US Naval Postgraduate School and the author of Information Warfare and Security (Addison- Wesley, 1998).

Florian Egloff, a Clarendon Scholar, is a doctoral candidate at the Centre for Doctoral Training in Cyber Security and a research affiliate at the Cyber Studies Programme in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford.

Peter Feaver is a professor of political science and public policy at Duke University, the director of the Triangle Institute for Security Studies, and the director of the Duke Program in American Grand Strategy. He formerly was the special adviser for strategic planning and institutional reform on the National Security Council.

Francis J. Gavin is the Giovanni Agnelli Distinguished Professor and inaugural director of the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He is also the author of Nuclear Statecraft: History and Strategy in America’s Atomic Age (Cornell University Press, 2012).

Kenneth Geers, a senior research scientist for Comodo, serves as an ambassador with the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and a senior fellow of the Atlantic Council. Geers is also an affiliate with the Digital Society Institute–Berlin and a visiting professor at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kiev. His twenty years of US government service include time in the US Army, National Security Agency, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and NATO.

Emily O. Goldman is the senior adviser to the commander, US Cyber Command, and the director, National Security Agency. Formerly a professor of political science at the University of California–Davis, she is the author of Power in Uncertain Times: Managing the Fog of Peace (Stanford, 2011).

Nicholas Lambert is the Class of 1957 Chair in Naval Heritage (2016–17) in the Department of History of the US Naval Academy. His books include Planning Armageddon: British Economic Warfare and the First World War (Harvard, 2012).

Ariel E. Levite, the nonresident senior associate at the Nuclear Policy Program of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was the former principal deputy director general for policy at the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission and a deputy national security adviser for defense policy to Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

Steven E. Miller is the director of the International Security Program at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He also serves as the editor in chief of International Security and is a coeditor of Going Nuclear (with Michael Brown, Owen Coté, and Sean Lynn- Jones, MIT Press, 2010).

George Perkovich is the Ken Olivier and Angela Nomellini Chair and Vice President for Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. A former foreign policy adviser to Senator Joe Biden, Perkovich is the coauthor of Not War, Not Peace? Motivating Pakistan to Prevent Cross- Border Terrorism (with Toby Dalton, Oxford University Press, 2016).

David E. Sanger is the national security correspondent for the New York Times and a senior writer for the paper. He is also an adjunct lecturer at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and a Senior Fellow for National Security and the Press at the school’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. His latest book is Confront and Conceal: Obama’s Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power (Crown, 2012).

Lt. Gen. Robert E. Schmidle Jr. (USMC, Ret.) served as the deputy commander of US Cyber Command from 2010 to 2012.

Bradley J. Strawser is an assistant professor in the Defense Analysis Department at the US Naval Postgraduate School and a research associate at the Oxford University Institute for Ethics, Law, and Armed Conflict.

Michael Sulmeyer is the director of the Cyber Security Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He formerly was the director for plans and operations for cyber policy at the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Michael Warner is the command historian of US Cyber Command and an adjunct faculty member at American University and Johns Hopkins University. He is also the author of The Rise and Fall of Intelligence: An International Security History (Georgetown University Press, 2014).

“We need to learn from the past, but the danger with historical analogies is that we will too quickly fix on a single one, biasing and narrowing our vision. By giving us a wide range of them, these fascinating essays both teach a lot of history and greatly enrich our understanding of the complexities of cyber conflict.”
—Robert Jervis, author of How Statesmen Think

“Perkovich and Levite have brought together the greatest minds on cyber and national security, and in the process they have produced the most comprehensive work to date on the threats posed by cyber and how we should think about mitigating them. The book is must reading for scholars, students, analysts, and policymakers involved in this complex and rapidly growing and changing threat.”
—Michael Morrell, former acting director and deputy director, Central Intelligence Agency

“The editors of this very useful work are spot on in their judgment that we have not yet gotten the big ideas of the cyber domain right. We are struggling to see what of our experience in physical space actually transfers to this new domain. Perkovich and Levite have assembled an impressive list of contributors to move that dialogue forward. That makes Understanding Cyber Conflict a must read for anyone who wants to master the complexities of this new space.”
—Michael Hayden, former director, Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency

“Everyone is looking for the right analogy to understand cyber conflict. This volume of expert essays considers them all, and thus fosters comparative analogical thinking that provides real insight into the challenge of cyber conflict.”
—Jack Goldsmith, Henry L. Shattuck Professor of Law, Harvard University

“Analogies can be insightful but also dangerously misleading. Perkovich and Levite have done the policymaker and media commentator a big favour by assembling expert opinion on when it is safe to deploy cyber analogies and when not. Their opening chapter should be compulsory reading for any commentator tempted to apply to today’s cyber threats and cyber strategies the apparent lessons of 9/11, Pearl Harbor, Vietnam, Cold War deterrence or Munich appeasement.”
—Professor Sir David Omand, War Studies Department, King’s College London, former Director of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)

More Reviews

5 New Tech Books for Urbanists
—Ian Klaus, Citiscope