Defending a new domain 5

“Like an answer, the three slogans on the white face of the Ministry of Truth came back at him…” -George Orwell

William J. Lynn III made this statement:

In cyberspace, the offense has the upper hand. [1]

As noted in a previous post, Mr. Lynn doesn’t bother to make a serious argument in support of this dubious theory. He does preface the assertion with a paragraph that begins “First, cyberwarfare is asymmetric”. But asymmetric warfare is what you have when an unambiguously superior force is dealing with pin prick annoyances at a tactical level. It has nothing to do with whether there is an intrinsic strategic advantage for the offense in a contest between equally matched opponents.

Mr. Lynn doesn’t make any effort to convince readers that “in cyberspace, the offense has the upper hand,” but as his essay develops he does refer to the theory, as if it were a settled fact:

In an offense-dominated environment, a fortress mentality will not work.

Given the dominance of offense in cyberspace…

Now, I’ve got a question for you: How would you complete that second sentence?

Given the dominance of offense in cyberspace _________________.

Well, logically, you’d insert something like, “it is imperative that the United States have a strong offensive posture” or “we must invest resources in offensive capabilities” or “we must accept the possibility that to win a conflict in cyberspace we will need to strike first”.

Given the dominance of offense, the side you want to be on is the side that goes on the offense, right? Let’s say, it’s football and it’s the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Herndon High School. Complete this sentence: Given the dominance of the Steelers in football, I should place a large bet on __________.

If you say, “Herndon HS”, read no further. I’ve lost you.

You will not believe how Mr. Lynn completes the sentence:

Given the dominance of offense in cyberspace, U.S. defenses need to be dynamic. [emphasis added]

I understand that to mean, essentially, “Because A can beat the fool out of B, the U.S. should go with B shaking its hips and making funny faces.”

If you read this essay closely, you start to wonder if Mr. Lynn really wrote it. That is, you wonder if any one person wrote it. There are odd inconsistencies and logical gaps, context switches, subtle vagaries…

Certainly a government bureaucrat could produce 10 or 12 pages of text with logical issues. I understand that. But this essay reads more like the product of a committee, cobbled together over a long period of time, with compromises in selection of words and phrases — compromises that have nothing at all to do with network security (or “cybersecurity”, if you’re a jargon addict) and everything to do with some bizarre high-wire balancing act performed in the Circus where those ridiculous clowns we elect to public office gather to devise new con games for taking away what we work hard to earn…

But… I digress  : – )

At any rate, the numerous incoherent threads running through this essay can be nicely summarized by this one incoherent statement: “Given the dominance of offense in cyberspace, U.S. defenses need to be dynamic.”

An inquisitive reader, W. Smith, asks:

“So, where you expect the word “offense” Mr. Lynn uses a curious phrase, “dynamic defense”?

Yes, that’s right.

Smith: “And as the essay continues, does Mr. Lynn come back to the concept of dynamic defense?”

Yes, he does.

Smith: “Does he define it?”

No, he doesn’t.

Smith: “I see.”

Ah… I’m not sure I see, but… this is reminding me of something… surely it’s not… The B Vocabulary?

Hold on… Where did I leave my copy of 1984?


[1] Foreign Affairs, September/October 2010: “Defending a New Domain”

About pmbarry

One of these days a man's gonna walk up to you with a shoe on one foot and a boot on the other, and he's gonna tell you 'bout things you ain't never heard of.
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