Which Cyberattacks Should the United States Deter, and How?

To Inform is to Influence

SGT. STEPHANIE RAMIREZ Photo

In theory, there is no reason why the principles of deterrence should not apply to cyberspace. However, there are a number of reasons why it does not work in practice.

In its obituary for legendary scholar and statesman Zbigniew Brzezinski, the New York Times noted that he “sometimes showed a tendency to believe that any disagreement between theory and reality indicated some fault on the part of reality.” That’s an observation worth bearing in mind when examining if and how the theory of deterrence can apply to current cyber threats. Wouldn’t it be nice if the United States could just threaten to impose cost on the perpetrators, and they would knock it off? After all, didn’t the United States successfully deter the Soviet Union from launching a devastating nuclear strike against it? Why can’t the same be done…

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