Their argument is simple.
- The government wants to control the people, or obtain a resource, or pursue some objective that could not be reasonably achieved if transparently presented to the citizenry.
- The government "propaganda machine," sometimes in coordination with "the media" and "big business," "manufactures" a "crisis" whose only solution is increased government power.
- The people acquiesce in order to preserve their safety, and the government achieves its objective.
As a result, those who see the world in this manner treat any discussion of real threats as step 2 in this process towards decreased liberty via increased government power. Those who seek to inform the citizenry of real threats are dismissed as sowing "FUD."
This is a tragedy, because it means that we continue to suffer at the hands of real threats who laugh while pillaging their target.
Yes, there are surely those in government who see any crisis as an opportunity to advance their agenda. Yes, governments have manufactured threats in the past to justify action. I am a history major so I am well schooled in these events, and as a libertarian I am suspicious of the government. However, I am not blinded to reality, unlike those who choose to dismiss threats as "simple espionage" and the like.
In the past I've been somewhat ambiguous about cyberwar. Starting now, I've decided to say it: cyberwar is real.
The reason some others aren't willing to say this is because they are keeping their minds narrowed to historical definitions of war, or they are not aware of the "facts on the ground," or they choose to ignore facts because they see them as elements of "step 2" and thereby inherently false.
I mentioned in a recent post that Attrition.org has decided to ridicule those who quote Sun Tzu, and I largely agree. At the micro level of civilian defense of corporate systems, where defenders cannot strike back, "war" does not seem to be the correct paradigm, so Sun Tzu fails as a way to interpret enterprise defense.
However, at the level of nation states, the entities which wage war, Sun Tzu is as applicable as ever. And this is the problem with those who dismiss cyberwar; they think that without bullets being fired, there is no war. Sun Tzu would laugh at that:
For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.
Bruce Lee, and before him Tsukahara Bokuden understood that "fighting without fighting" is the highest form of war.
Cyberwar, therefore, may be seen as a means to subdue the enemy without traditional "fighting."
It's likely that if those who dismiss cyberwar as "simple espionage" gain the political and philosophical high ground, and threats continue to ravage their victims, no bullets would ever need to be fired. The victim would not need to be "conquered" by traditional means; physical "war" would be redundant.
Does all this mean I agree with government plans to "defend" the Internet? Of course not. However, it is foolish to dismiss the threat because one does not agree with a government-proposed "solution."