The Armed Forces of the world are configured to wage war on nation states. That’s a problem when many predict the future of nation states is limited and the internet is the enabler that is bringing together whole new communities of interest. These have been shown to be able to form and function in the real world, as was the case with ISIS. But what if ISIS hadn’t sought a physical territory but remained a virtual entity bringing diplomatic and legal pressure on the world for recognition? What if they had only made their attacks in cyber battlespace with the strategic goal of bringing other nations to the negotiating table?
It’s important, before continuing, to define a few terms. A Nation State is different to a Micro State. The latter are usually recognized as part of the global order and include places like Vatican City. The former are usually not recognized and, in many cases, are a tongue-in-cheek exercise in promoting tourism such as Whangamomona in New Zealand. However, there are many that are serious attempts to step out from the constraints of what is perceived by the funders as a failing democratic process. They are often based on libertarian principles such as Liberland on the banks of the Danube between Croatia and Serbia. The Seasteading Institute is looking to the ocean to form new floating communities beginning in French Polynesia.
The problem with any new state that has a physical presence is that the armies, navies and police forces of the world can just turn up and kick you out. But what if a new community existed only in cyberspace? By going about things legally, it is possible that, in time, a dual citizenship might be established where a person physically lives in one place but identifies as a member of another virtual state. If that seems unlikely, then consider the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster whose members (called Pastafarians) now have recognized religious status in many countries. They are entitled to wear a colander on their head (religious headdress) for passport and driver’s licence photos and their clergy can perform marriages. The precedents exist and it is a matter of when, not if, a virtual society is recognized.
What happens when a cyber state goes rogue? The armed forces and police as we know them today are totally unsuited to dealing with what could essentially be a war fought only in cyber battlespace. It’s going to be too late to put a recruiting advert out there calling for cyber warriors when the whole campaign could be over in days. I mentioned one potential approach in an earlier piece in this series through standing up a cyberforce through the Defence Force Reserves system.
I will continue this discussion in the next article on cyber battlespace which examines the Fifth Generation of Warfare (5GW).
Previous articles in the series:
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