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Cyber-warfare Is Warfare

June 17, 2014

Control of the Internet and communication is now part of warfare.  If you want an example, just look to the (by pretty much any measure) disaster going on in Iraq right now.  The Register has some details:

Iraq has widened its internet ban to include virtual private networks and mobile data in a bid to halt the progress of brutal offensives in the country led by the extremist militant group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis).

Described as “fascist” and “criminal” by Jon Snow of Channel 4 News, Isis has been using social media to broadcast horrific images of mass executions and other barbaric war crimes. It now controls much of Iraq and is closing in on its capital, Baghdad.

From a tactical perspective, I wonder… where does Iraq think this war is being fought?  I’d suspect that both sides in the conflict believe this to be an isolate civil war, and that cutting off the ISIS access (along with everyone else’s, we’ll get to that) to outside communication prevents them from waging psychological warfare with the Iraqi public.  Saving local morale is, to the Baghdad government, more important that letting the world see the carnage being waged to gain sympathy.

From a strategy perspective, the feeling is that control of communications by a reigning government is the best way to ensure that said reigning government stays in control.  Syria did the same thing, or at least tried.  It’s a pretty savvy thing to do by the government, but it could backfire in both local and global ways.

While I don’t believe that access to the Internet and communications is a human right, there are many who do.  Even as some pretty horrific stuff is being blocked by the government, so is the access to the general public in Iraq, which could cause enough bad feelings towards the government as to move public sentiment.  Getting the whole public majority behind the Iraqi government is nearly as important as rallying the troops to actually beat back the ISIS barbarians at the gate.  Likewise, sometimes letting the world see people who are essentially trying to perpetrate a modern scorched-Earth policy in an effort to win a PR battle is a great way to prove to them that their strategy is a bit, um, dumb.

But my greater point is that cyber-warfare is now just a part of warfare.  I’d suspect that we’ll see more on that, at least if we’re looking, in future conflicts.

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