Nuclear Crisis Management and Information Warfare

Stephen J. Cimbala
1999 Parameters  
Military analysts and academic experts in security studies have envisioned a post-Cold War world dominated by a "Revolution in Military Affairs" based on high-tech conventional weapons and dominant knowledge of the wartime environment. [1] The same people often have assumed that the evolutionary development of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems is on an entirely different trajectory than that projected for information-based, "Third Wave" warfare and weapons.[2] Nuclear and other weapons
more » ... of mass destruction are the past; information-based, non-nuclear weapons, in this vision, are the future of war. This assumption of entirely separate gene pools for nuclear weapons of mass destruction and for information warfare may be incorrect for some kinds of situations, however, including crises between nuclear-armed states. The two apparently antithetical kinds of weapons may come together to create a new and potentially terrifying synthesis under the "right" political conditions. For present purposes, information warfare can be defined as activities by a state or non-state actor to exploit the content or processing of information to its advantage in time of peace, crisis, or war, and to deny potential or actual foes the ability to exploit the same means against itself.[3] This is intended as an expansive, and permissive, definition, although it has an inescapable bias toward military-and security-related issues. Information warfare can include both cyberwar and netwar. Cyberwar, according to John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt, is a comprehensive, informationbased approach to battle, normally discussed in terms of high-intensity or mid-intensity conflicts.[4] Netwar is defined by the same authors as a comprehensive, information-based approach to societal conflict. [5] Cyberwar is more the province of states and conventional wars; netwar, more characteristic of non-state actors and unconventional wars. [6] This article is organized as follows. First, I explain why the issue of nuclear deterrence remains significant after the Cold War. Second, I discuss what governments must do in order to perform successfully the crisis management function and the complexity inherent in accomplishing these tasks. Third, I identify some of the ways in which information warfare may increase the difficulty of accomplishing those tasks necessary to reduce or eliminate the risks of failed crisis management, with attention to the special character of crises between nuclear-armed states.[7] Fourth, I acknowledge that information warfare cannot be done away with, and is in some cases a desirable option for US policymakers. Therefore, the lion of infowar must be made compatible with the lamb of nuclear deterrence (or is it the reverse?). Nuclear Weapons Will Not Go Away Contrary to some expectations, nuclear weapons and arms control issues have not vanished over the horizon in a post-Desert Storm euphoria. There are at least four reasons for this. The first is that Russia still has many thousands of nuclear weapons, and delivery systems of intercontinental range. US officials await the ratification by the Russian State Duma (lower house of the Russian legislature) of the START II agreement that would reduce permitted strategic nuclear warheads for each side to between 3,000 and 3,500 force loadings.[8] US Department of Defense funds have been authorized by the Nunn-Lugar legislation for the destruction, dismantlement, and secure storage of much of the Cold War Soviet nuclear arsenal. Russia's willingness to ratify START II and to proceed to a Clinton-sought START III is related to two other important security issues: NATO enlargement and continued adherence to the ABM Treaty of 1972.[9] Somewhat paradoxically, Russia's military and economic weakness for at least the remainder of this century makes
doi:10.55540/0031-1723.1927 fatcat:mihgrmasobgibjmvucrh5l47k4