Reference: Joe Nye on Cyber-Power

Computer/online security, Cyberscams, malware, spam, InfoOps (IO), Intelligence (government), White Papers

Download PDF 1.1MB 30 pages

Nye, Joseph S. “Cyber Power.” Paper (30 Pages)

Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School,

May 2010

Power depends upon context, and the rapid growth of cyber space is an important new context in world politics. The low price of entry, anonymity, and asymmetries in vulnerability means that smaller actors have more capacity to exercise hard and soft power in cyberspace than in many more traditional domains of world politics. Changes in information has always had an important impact on power, but the cyber domain is both a new and a volatile manmade environment. The characteristics of cyberspace reduce some of the power differentials among actors, and thus provide a good example of the diffusion of power that typifies global politics in this century. The largest powers are unlikely to be able to dominate this domain as much as they have others like sea or air. But cyberspace also illustrates the point that diffusion of power does not mean equality of power or the replacement of governments as the most powerful actors in world politics.

DOWNLOAD PDF (30 pages, 1.1 MB) from Harvard Site

Phi Beta Iota:  The author served as deputy director of the National Intelligence Council and as an Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.  He coined the term “soft power” and is arguably the most astute and coherent observer and analyst of traditional relations among nations now serving in the upper ranks of the elite that pupport to be serving the public interest.


No Arabic, Chinese, or Russian sources are cited.

USA is identified as the single greatest cyber-predator and intruder, followed by China.

The document reads like a defense-funded defense-justification for big bucks for cyber-war and cyber defense, and avoids completely all discussion of the wealth of networks, collective intelligence, fortune at the bottom of the pyramid, non-zero, evolutionary consciousness, and so on.  This paper could be – should be – the last bullet fired in the last volley of the last battle of the now dead Industrial-Era dinosaur.

The fundamental flaw of this marginally erudite paper is that it persists in two illusions: that states will continue to be the dominant form of organization–and that “control” is possible, to include the “shaping” of preferred outcomes “engineered” by one party against the will of other parties.  This author does not compute the  words “volition” or “panarchy.”

Sadly, despite several references to information as a commodity and to the value of sharing information, this paper never acknowledges the constructive potential of the digital revolution: the possibility of creating infinite wealth, non-zero solutions, a prosperous world at peace that meets Buckminster Fuller’s goal of creating a world that works for all.

The author refers to “modern social science.”  The three terms together are a double-oxymoron.  Social “science” is at best the intellectual runt of whatever is left of honest academia, and at worst–exemplified by the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain Teams (HTT), a pathologically inept, corrupt, and downright dangerous misallocation of bad brains under bad management to bad ends.

Among the terms that betray the “imperial” nature of this paper (which is not at all persuasive on the US ever being competent in this arena) are “co-optive behavior,” “framing agendas,” etcetera.  One does not read about co-evolution, open space technology, win-win, or “true cost” in this paper–those are foreign, even alien concepts to the intellectual and financial circles represented by the paper.

A cursury overview is provided by the author of the “history” of cyber-this and cyber-that, but Winn Schwartau is not mentioned, nor is the author even aware of the fact that in 1994 the top advocates for responsible secure computing wrote to Marty Harris at the National Infomation Infrastructure (NII) to define the urgent need for a billion dollar a year budget devoted to creating a national information infrastructure that was reliable and secure.

The dichotomy is clear when the author says “Defined behaviorally, cyber power is the ability to obtain preferred outcomes through use of the electronically interconnected information resources of the cyber-domain.”  Preferred by whom, one must inquire.  The mind cannot help but conjure up an image of Barbara Bush spawning the seed of Dick Cheney (artificially inseminated, of course), releasing into the world a shrill little creature who can only say, over and over, “Because I say so….”

The author makes a pass at going from seapower to airpower to cyberpower, but it just does not pass the smell test.  News flash: this is not about moving electrons–it is about whether or not we are going to empower and unleash the human brain, the one inexhausible resource we have.  Any perpetuation of the corrupt idiocy represented by this paper and its financial masters in the Pentagon is certain to cost a great deal and deliver nothing of value to the US taxpayer.

The author rather glibly skips over the irresponsibility of government in failing to act on the warnings it received–just as Peak Oil was ably articulated to the White House and Congress from 1974-1979, so also was the threat of cyber-anarchy articulated from 1990-1994. 

The one really cool sentence in this paper is attributed to Martin C. Libicki, Cyberdeterrence and Cyberwarfare  (RAND, 2009):

“…attempts to transfer policy constructs from other forms of warfare will not only fail but also hinder policy and planning.”

Unpacked, the sentence boils down to this: in cyber-space, naked emperors do not make the cut.  Or, as the LINUX masters put it, “Put enough eyeballs on it, and no bug (or lie) is invisible.”  The Pentagon is not ready for that, neither are most governments.

The author comments on SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems that can be hacked, but neglects to point out that they can be hacked because ignorant as well as irresponsible corporations chose to take the low road, and the government was too dumb to stop them.  Now the Chinese are riding electrical lines into those SCADA systems that are finally not on the Internet, and this is the real reason NSA wants its own powerplants–they are scared to death the public will see them for the naked, grotesquely obese, and largely useless beast they are–nothing more than a pin cushion for Chinese checkers.

The author touches on the importance of understanding the “code” that underlays what one can know and see, but avoids the two really big issues of our time:

1.  Google search is now producing what someone else pays for you to see, not “best in class” results that synthesize and make sense; and

2.  The entire $12 billion proposal for a national cyber-security “regime” is a cyber-scam.  There are [at one informed glance] only 63 truly qualified people in the offensive code arena, and only 12 of those are known to be doing defensive code research.  A rational taxpayer would give each of these individual a million dollars, and tell the beltway bandits to come back when they are relevant to the needs of the taxpayer…..but this is NOT what Bob Gates and Jim Clapper are being paid to do, on the contrary.

The balance of the paper is disappointing.  On balance, the summary comments (those that are positive) on Martin Libicki’s new book are a better read.  The Pentagon, and the US Intelligence Community, are “dead men walking.”  Sadly, they are going to continue to be the sucking chest wounds in our national political, socio-economic, ideo-cultural, techno-demographic, and natural-geographic frames of references, precisely because neither the Pentagon nor the US Intelligence Community are moral or intelligent in any sense of either word.

This paper is, at root, a rectal thermometer in the military-intelligence-industrial-congressional complex, and by this account, the patient is not just dead, the patient is rapidly de-composing, with maggots where the brain should be.

See Also:

1994 Sounding the Alarm on Cyber-Security

2010: Human Intelligence (HUMINT) Trilogy Updated


Search: The Future of OSINT [is M4IS2-Multinational]

2008 Information Sharing Challenges on a Multinational Scale

1999 Setting the Stage for Information-Sharing in the 21st Century: Three Issues of Common Concern to DoD and the Rest of the World

1992 Information Concepts & Doctrine for the Future