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Saint Augustine
Just War Over Cyber Networks - Technological Heresy
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Technological Heresy
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Cyberwarfare supports the American war-heresy: technology supersedes all. This heresy is evidenced by commanders who focus upon information flow while ignoring the purely human element, which results in battles that are won but wars that are lost. Transactional analysis of the battlespace ignores the lessons of the past. Great Commanders of the past labored to understand their opponents and anticipate nuances that cannot be quantified.

Technological capabilities too often predetermine how they will be understood and used. Digital communication is flat and devoid of the thickness of true humanity. Complex technology lowers human attention to an unsophisticated, primal level. Concentration upon data develops commanders and formations that are unimaginative, heartless, amoral, and culturally inept warriors. America’s overwhelming cyber advantage and superior intelligence production is also its most glaring weakness. Perhaps this is the primary reason Americans have consistently won battles but lost wars in the modern era. Our opponents focused upon the man, we focused upon the numbers.

Americans are in love with their technology to the point of unreality. This has to do with a faulty understanding about the nature of humanity. In spite of various science fiction fantasies, machines will never be more than tools wielded by people. Layers of complexity and function do not replace the human element, but must always guided by it. This is not deus ex machina, that is, personality introduced to provide a contrived solution to an apparently insoluble difficulty. Understanding the humanity of one’s opponents is an honest recognition of the realities of being human.

Metaphysics and cyber war are compatible and inseparable. Ultimately the cyber effort is an expression of the human will. Imposing one’s will10 on another is a near-divine trait devolving from our creation in the imago dei. Remove the spiritual from the human being, and we reduce mankind to animal mechanism. Modern Western society fundamentally misunderstands the true nature of humanity. It underestimates the ontological uniqueness of homo sapiens. Only human beings can act morally or immorally, to do good or to do evil.


The entire cyber domain is global in its reach, transcending sovereign borders while redefining international security.11 It encompasses political, military, commercial, telecommunications, and civil infrastructure networks.

Cyberspace refers to the fusion of all communication networks, databases and information sources into a global virtual system and cyber-conflict is defined as cyberspace-based attacks on the civilian and military infrastructures (transportation, power, communications and financial infrastructures) upon which societies and armed forces increasingly depend.12

This article explores potential ways that a Just War may be conducted over cyber networks, distinguishing between Cyber War, Cyber Espionage and Cyber Attacks. Cyber War is the declared state of conflict or hostilities between two or more nations or other entities, such as an insurgent movement that is conducted over information domains. Cyber Espionage is the act of covert and unauthorized access by one nation to anther nation’s computer systems, usually accomplished in a period of professed peace. Cyber Attacks13 are the actions of a variety of non-state actors to gain unauthorized access to computers for malicious purposes.

The advent of Cyberwar (CW) is an incredible tactical development exponentially expanding the battlefield and the domain of military interest and action. What CW is not is an evolutionary leap forward that negates all that preceded it. The practitioner of the military arts must not become confused (as it were) by roiling clouds of technological smoke that obscure the effects of digital innovations. Again and again, we must remind ourselves of two principles of life. First, Christ’s admonishment concerning personal culpability: “You are defiled by what comes from your heart." 14 Second, Clausewitz’s dictum about taking care to act on the fundamental of war: “Everything is very simple in war, but the simplest thing is difficult.”15 New technologies for waging war can easily be mistaken for essential changes in the nature of warfare, but this is simply not so. The fundamentals of morality and the conduct of war have not changed but expanded in scope. What has changed are our ways and means of managing conflict.

Just War ethics are critical for the moral conduct of warfare. However, Western post-Christian society is increasingly without a metaphysical basis for making moral choices. Faith and war are not just compatible but inseparable. The Christian faith informs us about not only what is, but what ought to be. Morality and moral authority is always sought by humanity because we are spiritual beings; embodied souls accountable to our Creator. Faith in God gives us clear ethical reference points in the material world.

Ethical confusion arises when something like game theory16 is substituted for ontological morality. Various choices in game theory17 implicitly contain a consequentialist morality while attempting to substitute rationalized social mechanisms for ethical choices. Whether one chooses to allow all to win or self to win is a moral choice made for larger reasons than the tactics of the moment.

Technology easily disguises moral realities. Rather than letting technology separate humanity from itself, we must more closely examine what it means to be truly human. One must always be careful to cut through the epistemological clutter. Pragmatism’s fundamental mistake is to misconstrue the ontological reality of humanity. Further, refusal to recognize the necessity of universal moral principles inevitably undercuts any ethical basis for positive law. All of mankind is thus reduced to its animal state and life is conceived as purely functional.

Last Updated on Saturday, 01 December 2012 22:23