I ask can cyberwarfare lead to world peace because of the Cold War doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).
In fact, during the Cold War neither side could risk direct combat because of nuclear weapons. To explain, the United States and the Soviet Union had the ability to destroy each other. Hence, the term Mutually Assured Destruction.
History teaches us that MAD works because there was no fighting between Americans and Russians during the 46 years of Cold War. Instead, the leaders on each side had a strong incentive to make peace.
How Nuclear Weapons can lead to Peace
Specifically, nuclear weapons could kill most Soviet and American citizens including the leaders. Thus, leaders had a strong motivation to take serious risks for peace.
One reason conflicts like World War I were so bad was that incompetent leaders; like Field Marshall Ludendorff, David Lloyd George, and U.S. President Woodrow Wilson (D-New Jersey), were at no physical risk.
Instead, British Prime Minister George could prolong the war as long as need be to preserve his political career. George’s fear was that voters would turn out his Liberal government if he lost the war.
To explain, George was safe at 10 Downing Street while British men were dying in the trenches. However, George would have quickly changed his mind and signed a peace treaty if he learned the Germans could kill him in London. Similarly, Wilson understood he was at no risk of death in Washington when he shipped young Americans off to die in France.
Nuclear weapons and peace
The American and Russian leaders of the Cold War were not any smarter or more civilized than the World War I leaders. Instead, the difference was that people like Jimmy Carter and Nikita Khrushchev knew they would die a few minutes after they pushed the button.
For example, two different U.S. presidents ordered destructive bombing of civilian targets in Vietnam. Meanwhile, the Russians drove tanks over unarmed Hungarians and blew up Afghanistan for Communism.
However, nobody in the Kremlin or the White House could risk direct war with the other nuclear power without facing death. Thus for the first time in recorded history the world was free of great power warfare.
Instead, only warfare waged was between small powers or great powers and small powers For instance, the United States could bomb North Vietnam into the stone age because its government had no nuclear weapon.
However, American presidents treated the leaders of nuclear powers like the USSR and China with great respect. In fact, President Richard M. Nixon (R-California) risked everything to meet with the greatest mass murderer in human history, Chinese dictator Mao Zedong. Notably, Nixon’s visit to China less than a decade after China tested its first nuclear bomb.
How Cyberweapons can lead to Peace
Interestingly, MAD could work with cyberweapons just like it works with nuclear weapons.
Theoretically, cyberwarfare has the potential to devastate any great power in the 21st Century. For instance, a powerful cyberweapon could crash the stock exchange, destroy medical records, turn off the internet, or erase all the banking information in New York, Shanghai, or London.
Moreover, some experts believe cyberweapons could shut down the power grid and disrupt energy and food supplies, The Washington Post claims. Obviously, the destruction will not be as great as with nukes but the discomfort cyberwarfare creates will be tremendous.
Cyberwarfare for Peace
However, cyberweapons are far easier to make and deploy than nuclear bombs. Nobody needs vast laboratories, centrifuges, bombers, and missiles to wage cyberwarfare. Instead, a man in a cubicle or a nerd in the basement can make a cyberweapon.
Moreover, anybody can deliver malware via the internet or a flash drive carried in someone’s pocket. Hence, one saboteur could bring down an entire nation with a cyber weapon. Importantly, the hacker can launch the attack from any internet connection anywhere on Earth.
Thus even the smallest and poorest nations can practice cyberwarfare. Hence, great power leaders have to think twice every time they think twice every time they pick on a small nation.
Unlike Lyndon B. Johnson (D-Texas); the president who began the Vietnam War, Donald J. Trump (R-New York) fears an immediate cyberattack from countries like North Korea or Venezuela. Thus, Trump’s power to attack other nations is far less than LBJ’s.
Does Cyberwafare explain Trump and North Korea?
Not coincidently, President Donald J. Trump (R-New York) began direct negotiations with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un after that nation showed impressive cyber warfare capabilities.
For instance, North Korean hackers nearly stole $1 billion from the New York Federal Reserve in 2016, The New York Times claims.
Moreover, the same North Korean hackers could loot Bangladesh’s Central Bank. In addition, North Korea reportedly has an army of 6,000 hackers Kim can unleash.
Thus, cynics will say Trump’s real motivate in talking to Kim could be fear. For example, Trump could be afraid North Korea will disseminate his tax returns or The Apprentice tapes online if he does not meet with Kim.
Or empty the bank or retirement accounts of tens of millions of American voters. In addition, North Korean hackers could shut down portions of America’s power grid on Super Bowl Sunday or Election Day.
Cyberweapons for Peace
Therefore, cyberwarfare could make the world a more peaceful place. To explain, no great power will attack a small power out of fear of cyberattack.
Thus cyberarefare could spare the world destructive small scale great power wars; like the American debacles in Vietnam and Iraq, or the Soviet stupidity in Afghanistan. Instead, for the first time in human history great powers could treat small nations with respect.
Hence, the world could be a more stable and peaceful place because of cyberweapons. Only history will show us if this thesis will come true. However, the potential of cyberwarfare to create peace is great.