ACI Journal Articles


The Unfitness of Traditional Military Thinking in Cyber

Document Type


USMA Research Unit Affiliation

Army Cyber Institute

Publication Date



Comprehensive theories of conflict in the cyber world have not yet been developed, but the utilization of traditional military strategy and operational concepts in lieu of existing strategies in this realm can mislead, resulting in spurious assessments and unfavorable outcomes. Four tenets of the cyber world present profound challenges for the application of traditional military strategies in cyber conflicts. The cyber world is characterized by the following: 1) a lack of object permanence, which undermines the concept of maneuver; 2) limited or absent measurement of effectiveness in offensive cyber; 3) conflicts that are executed at computational speed, thus removing the time window for meaningful strategic leadership; and 4) anonymity, which makes the parties to the conflict unknown. As a result, the use of traditional military thinking and path-dependent behavior in cyber is likely to lead to incorrect conclusions regarding strategic achievements and abilities in the pre-conflict stage, and increase the risk of strategic failure during conflict and provide an opportunity for an adversary's strategic surprise.

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