Academic journal article Military Review

Defending Cyberspace and Other Metaphors

Academic journal article Military Review

Defending Cyberspace and Other Metaphors

Article excerpt

DEFENDING CYBERSPACE AND OTHER METAPHORS by Martin C. Libicki. 110 pages. National Defense University, Washington, DC. 1997. Out of print.

What is cyberspace? Can it be defined and identified clearly enough to be defended? If we can define what it is, then whom shall we defend it for, and from whom shall we defend it? If we can clarify who the players are on this cyber battlefield, we can then ask if it is even defensible and, if so, at what cost. These are but a few of the questions that occupy the forefront of the information-age debate.

Martin C. Libicki attempts to address these questions using metaphor as a tool of explanation. Metaphor, he explains, is "how new things are framed so they can be discussed in terms of the familiar." In this case, the new thing to be understood is information warfare. His six essays explore various aspect of the US National Information Infrastructure (NII), the threat to it, the means to defend it and how we use it for our own information warfare.

Much has recently been written in an effort to define this new and seemingly amorphous aspect of warfare. Lest we begin a futile chase after some illusive specter, Libicki concludes, "ultimately we need to transition to an understanding of what Information Warfare is, and not what it is like."

Information warfare can be several things-an attack on the fidelity of someone's information; the disruption of the ability to process information; or the use of information to influence a potential adversary, such as President Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" program. I believe Libicki's central thesis is that although the United States is increasingly dependent on its information infrastructure, this dependence does not necessarily translate to an increased threat from so-called information warfare to national security.

Is there really an information-warfare equivalent to a nuclear attack or the loss of geostrategic access to key minerals or oil reserves? That is not to say that nothing should or can be done. However, Libicki suggests that the solution must come from those entities most threatened and the defense tailored to the potential damage posed by potential assaults. Moreover, he suggests that a centralized government "defense," while possible, would likely require the compromise of much of the autonomy and freedom that makes the NII so valuable. …

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