Stephen Ryan’s column, “Should U.S. pledge not to make first
cyberstrike?” [GCN, August 3, Page 32], looked back
to the Cold War for useful parallels. It should have looked back much further. There are
extraordinarily strong parallels between the rhetoric today on cyberwar and cyberterror
and the rhetoric of strategic bombing in the 1920s and especially the 1930s.

The parallels should provide a wake-up call that there are very serious dangers in
scaring ourselves into building offenses and defenses that can never deliver on their
promises of neat, clean technological solutions to conflict.

In the early 1930s the international conference on prohibiting strategic bombing might
have adopted the draft agreement outlawing the bombing of cities, had not the Nazis walked
out, forcing France and Britain to plan what they called a strategic bombing deterrent.

British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin’s claim then that “the bomber will
always get through” is echoed by the Air Force general Ryan cited who claimed,
“Whoever controls the electromagnetic spectrum will win the battle.”

Having sown the whirlwind seeds, the air power theorists attempted to deliver: victory
from the air by destroying industries and cities—today’s so-called
infrastructure—with or without precision bombing, depending on each nation’s
particular capabilities. But air power alone, even with the atomic bomb, could not, as
promised, win the war. The bombers, alone, could never get through enough to win it.

Are we going down a very similar road today with cyberwar? Are we looking for a
cyberwar silver bullet and scaring ourselves into building a cyberwar massive retaliation
by assuming the hacker will always get through and whoever controls the electromagnetic
spectrum will win the battle?

Awaiting the next major conflict, will we spend tons of treasure on cyberwar
capabilities only to discover once again that there was no war-winning wonder
weapon—just another simplistic political-military trap of our own creation, another
mind game we played on ourselves?

Will we suffer through the false threats and promises of cyberwar, and find out once
again that, in real war, nothing is simple, nothing easy, nothing bloodless?

Frank J. Stech
Principal scientist and Army Active Reserve colonel
Mitretek Systems Inc.

Today I received my Aug. 31 issue of GCN with an article on Page 88 titled, “As part of overhaul, Pentagon to get
ATM backbone.” The subhead states, “Under $110 million contract, GTE will build
network that DOD expects to serve users until 2050.”

Until 2050? Who in their right mind believes this? And how can GCN publish an article
with this kind of out-of-touch thinking in anything other than the April Fool’s Day
issue? Or maybe as a candidate for a golden fleece-type of award? Or are the architects of
this wonderful government program trying to establish the case for a cyberspace version of
the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, as in the television movie “The Pentagon Wars”?

Will the clients on this durable network still be running Microsoft Windows NT in 2050?

Perhaps you could publish the cost-benefit study. That would be interesting reading.

Thomas G. Batty
Vice president
Regent Systems Inc.
Dayton, Ohio


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