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Addressing cyber warfare : bolstering deterrence through developing norms Dawson, Ashley


This paper is interested in two things: one, exploring the ways in which states can deploy cyber-attacks that aim at disrupting, paralyzing and possibly destroying another state’s assets, with direct bearing on national security; and two, the potential strategies for limiting the scope and number of these attacks in the absence of viable deterrence. There is an ongoing debate about the nature and possibility of a ‘cyber war’ in the international system. By revisiting traditions conceptions of war, this paper argues a large-scale cyber war can be deterred using a strategy of deterrence by punishment, but deterrence fails to prevent ongoing limited-aims cyber attacks due to the issue of plausible deniability. Moreover, international legal frameworks fall short because states cannot credibly commit, even states could credible commitment the issue of adequately balancing humanitarian concerns and military necessity poses a challenge. As controlling behavior through traditional deterrence or purely rationalist legal frameworks fail with respect to limited-aims cyber attacks, this paper considers the possibility of changing states’ preferences as a means of addressing the problem. By allowing an agency/structure dichotomy to enter into the analysis, this paper explores the potential for norms in bolstering cyber deterrence. Although the development of new norms of behaviour is still in its early stages, there is evidence of states asserting their role in the process, acting as norms entrepreneurs in an attempt to shape state preferences in cyberspace.

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