What if Cyberspace Were for Fighting?

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Abstract: This essay explores the ethical and legal implications of prioritizing the militarization of cyberspace as part of a roundtable on “Competing Visions for Cyberspace.” Our essay uses an ideal type—a world that accepts warfighting as the prime directive for the construction and use of cyberspace—and examines the ethical and legal consequences that follow for (i) who will have authority to regulate cyberspace; (ii) what vehicles they will most likely use to do so; and (iii) what the rules of behavior for states and stakeholders will be. We envision a world where states would take on a greater role in governance but remain constrained by law, including jus ad bellum and jus in bello criteria, but also sovereignty, nonintervention, and self-determination. We ask if the net result would mean states causing less harm than they do in kinetic conflicts. Ultimately, our essay takes no position on whether cyberspace should be a militarized domain (let alone one where warfighting is the prime directive). Rather, our goal is to situate a warfighting cyber domain within the reality of a pluralist cyberspace, where ethical imperatives compete or coalesce to support specific governance mechanisms.

Keywords: cyber war, cyberspace, cyberattack, jus ad bellum, jus in bello, international humanitarian law, global governance, hacking back

The full roundtable essay is available to subscribers only. Click here for access.

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Category: Issue 32.4, Roundtable: Competing Visions for Cyberspace, The Ethics of War and Peace

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