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This Journal is sponsored by the Assn. for Christian Conferences, Teaching and Service.

ISSN: 2354-8315 (Online)

 


st-augustine

Saint Augustine
Just War Over Cyber Networks
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Article Index
Just War Over Cyber Networks
Technological Heresy
Cyberwar
An Unregulated Frontier
Just War Over Cyber Networks
Endnotes
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By Reverend Wylie W. Johnson, D.Min., M.Div., M.S.S.; Chaplain (Colonel), U.S. Army Reserve (Retired), Senior Pastor of Springfield Baptist Church, Springfield, Pennsylvania

Cyber is the fifth domain of warfare. It is an anonymous, global, instantaneous, virtual world not physically inhabited by persons. In cyberspace, machines are autonomous proxies for people. Humanity is removed from cyberspace by one or more orders of magnitude. It is a frontier of pure pragmatism – if it can be done, do it with a machine. Therefore the natural tendency is to view actions occurring within cyberspace as virtual and without moral content or responsibility. However, the entire field of cyberspace is a place of human endeavor that also brings with it individual and corporate human responsibility to conduct all activities ethically. All cyber actions, even second/third/fourth/etc. order effects must be evaluated for morality. Cyber War must be waged justly. Just War categories have not been rendered obsolete because the Cyber War domain is new, exponentially expanding and little understood. Rather, Just War categories are supple and comprehensive for all human undertakings in the conduct of warfare.

It is not possible to write law that anticipates every instance of human action. Enforcement of law goes a long way toward curbing the darker urges of humanity, requires highly disciplined militaries, and a national will to be virtuous. To wage a Just War requires leaders and warriors of virtue, principle and integrity. Virtue Ethics may become integral to a human being’s soul, but the Law will always be an exterior value.

NEW IS OLD AND OLD IS NEW

New is old and old is new. Information has always been at the heart of warfare. What is now novel is that information is collected, transmitted and communicated at the speed of light along digital networks. The emerging field of Cyber War (CW) is rapidly developing in a largely unregulated arena where new avenues of action,1 effects and possibilities are routinely being developed.

Cyber is the fifth domain of warfare.2 It is a largely anonymous, global, instantaneous, virtual world—not physically inhabited by persons. In cyberspace, machines are autonomous proxies for persons. Humanity is removed from cyberspace by one or more orders of magnitude. It is a frontier of pure pragmatism. Therefore the natural tendency is to view cyberspace actions as virtual, amoral and without assignable responsibility. Cyber War is truly seductive, relatively inexpensive,3 and increasingly available to second and third tier nations. It has potential to harm an enemy anonymously with little chance of being identified for retribution.

Many scholars regard Cyber War as a force multiplier and not a venue for decisive warfare such as land or sea. To date this assessment is probably correct, in that without the application of conventional power a cyber-contest would not conclude hostilities.4 However, given the immediacy, reach and relatively low cost of cyber weapons the “destructive capacity for poor and weak states is unprecedented.”5 Cyber weapons have the potential to wreak catastrophic economic, infrastructure, and military losses while the attacking nation is insulated from retribution.

Some persons claim that Just War morality is obsolete.6 Various arguments are put forth based upon the increasing complexity of modern warfare; or the anonymity of cyberspace; or because of the apparent demise of the Westphalian state; or because of the horrific potential of various weapons systems. Others reject the notion that Christian morality is possible. The world also recognizes the hypocrisy and frustrating futility of enforcing a morality that is reduced to a series of legal checklists.

JUST WAR APPLICABLE TO MODERN TECHNOLOGICAL ACTIONS

Just War morality, however, has not become passé. It is a matter of living virtue for both individuals and nations.7 Virtue reaches far deeper into the human soul than professional ethics or complicity with existing laws. Virtue, or the lack of it, describes humanity. Regardless of secular optimism, human nature has not evolved beyond its fallenness. Reinhold Niebuhr wrote prolifically concerning humanity’s fallenness as the appalling cause of humanity‘s troubles.8 There continues to reside within the heart of every person and the people of every nation the propensity to do evil. Therefore, virtue as personal character and moral codes guiding public and private action are essential for the maintenance of civil order. Humanity’s critical social need is for a virtuous populace and leadership.

Secular societies attempt to fashion virtue and morality through the rule of law. It is not possible, however, to write law that anticipates every instance of human action. Nor is it possible to write law that changes the fundamental condition of man. At best, national and international law can only be a guide for persons and nations that are dedicated to moral behaviors. In any case, the modern habit of substituting law for internalized morality results in a “check list” mentality and increasing disparity between the ideal and the normative. Granted, law enforcement goes a long way toward curbing the darker actions of humanity. But law is not a stand-alone; it requires a virtuous national will and an ethically disciplined military to make any meaningful difference in wartime. Virtue Ethics may become integral to a human being’s soul, but the Law will always be an exterior value. To wage a Just War necessitates leaders and warriors of virtue, principle and integrity.9

Just War morality is a mature and comprehensive guide for conduct of human affairs during hostilities. It is eminently applicable for the uncharted domains of Cyber War. Human beings have not somehow evolved beyond ordinary morality with the advent of the cyber domain. In fact, the reverse is true. The temptations and abilities now gathered to humanity through digital means require renewed understanding and application of moral convictions to overcome these enticements. Just War teaching demands that moral actions expressed in a networked world must be given deep thought as to their intent, content and the effects to be achieved. All human actions, cyber or otherwise, express some level of morality. To theorize that the cyber domain is amoral is a fatuous proposition.

Cyber War must be waged justly. Just War categories have not been rendered obsolete because the domain is new, exponentially expanding and little understood. The entire field of cyberspace is a place of human endeavor that also brings with it individual and corporate human responsibility toward the rest of the human race. All cyber actions, even second/third/fourth/etc. order effects must be carefully evaluated for ethical outcomes. Just War categories are supple and comprehensive for all human warfare.



Last Updated on Saturday, 01 December 2012 22:23