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1998-02-26 00:34:04


Information Warfare: What Y2K Represents



AIR CHRONICLES is published by the Department of Defense. The article on information warfare points to the extreme vulnerability of the defense systems. It also reveals the extent to which social systems are at risk.

The Year 2000 Problem threatens to become just such an attack, but on a scale beyond anything a terrorist group could orchestrate.

Notice the article's assessment of the impact of such an attack: "The weapons of Information Warfare have effects as potentially devastating as those of nuclear weapons. . . ."

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by Maj. Karl Kuschner



Information warfare weapons must meet the same tests for necessity and proportionality as other weapons under the laws of armed conflict. In addition, commanders must recognize and weigh the possible consequences of weapons that can devastate the information systems of an adversary. Problems such as lack of enemy command and control, post-hostility reconstruction, and retaliation, among others, must be considered by the commander contemplating the use of information weapons. . . .

The term "information warfare" has thus caught the attention of an entire generation of military thinkers. While the term encompasses both offensive and defensive measures, much of the imaginative thinking has concerned attacks on an enemy's command and control and information systems-using methods as diverse as computer viruses and laser beams. Much of this thought goes into understanding the possibilities-and maximizing the effects-of high technology in information warfare. Here is an example: Let's consider the consequences if the following systems were targeted.... for disablement: financial markets, nuclear power plants, telephone systems, power distribution systems, traffic lights, or air traffic control and airline reservations systems. . . .

The weapons of Information Warfare have effects as potentially devastating as those of nuclear weapons, yet there has been relatively little closure in the debates on the implications of the newest technologies and their use in warfare. There are legal and practical limitations that the National Command Authorities and, more specifically, the operational commander, must consider before employing these technologies. . . .

A final problem for the commander to consider, especially with new, highly destructive technology, is the problem of retaliation. The United States is the most information-dependent country in the world, and, even if military systems are hardened, has the greatest vulnerability to information attack. As Time magazine says, "An infowar arms race could be one the U.S. would lose because it is already vulnerable to such attacks." These attacks could take the form of escalation, or simple desperation. Just as Iraq slung Scud missiles in frustration during the Persian Gulf War, an adversary that found its information weapons ineffective against U.S. armed forces may direct them against civilian targets -- the Internet, communication satellites, or undersea fiber optic cables, for example. While these targets may not be militarily significant during actual hostilities, they could prove politically sensitive or at least disruptive. Intelligence should be tasked to determine possible enemy responses to information attack, and the impact of possible retaliation considered in the selection or rejection of information weapons.


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