Cyberwar Within the Context of Everything Else

Gaming War Within the Context of Everything Else,” Fire and Movement, Issue 134, by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Horse and Musket,, 2004.

Of content flows and rodeos,” by Stuart Berman, My Kids’ Dad,, 4 February 2005.

Stuart Berman is an insightful thinker, and I recently added his blog to my reading list. But this suggestion is dangerously wrong.

2) The analogous layer – should the Internet remain ‘wide open’ or should we adopt Barnett’s model?

Barnett emphasizes the role of technologies in fostering the war of connectivity although he concentrates on the geophysical context (the Internet has multiplied the effects of globalization but those effects tend to be geographic thus the Gap and Core are mostly bounded by national boundaries with special position given to those countries on the border – ‘seam states’). This makes sense as long as the war is fought along physical lines, but some (including myself) are concerned about the impact of cyberwar – that is what happens when the connectivity war starts ‘backflushing’ upstream? Examples above are one aspect of this. In the cyberworld (electronic communications) there is very little relationship between the physical (location and infrastructure) and the virtual (the content and flow) so the seams or the frontlines are almost imperceptible. (A Korean may have her Hotmail account with all of it’s data reside in Seattle and is handled the same way as if it belonged to a man in Iowa.) Clearly China has tried to alter this architecture – the question is should the architecture take into account analogous geophysical global situations or even try to model the architecture along the thinking Barnett offers (in the virtual world regardless of your physical location are you a Core player, a Gap player or a Seam player -> your behavior determines your status not any other factor[nationality, religion, skin tone, gender])? The first option (China) involves firewalling and content control at the physical borders, the second option requires development of identity architectures and virtual firewalling (ala Jericho Forum).

If I am reading this right, the suggestion is dangerously wrong. We have to fight war in the context of everything else. That means cyberwar within the context of too. Dr. Barnett has written

Instead of just gaming war within the context of war, you’d have to game war within the context of everything else—Risk meets Monopoly meets Life meets . . ..

Let me give you an even better example. The U.S. Census Bureau says two-thirds of America’s population growth between now and 2050 will come from Latinos immigrating here from Central and South America. Without that flow of bodies, our Potential Support Ratio (PSR) of workers-to-retirees will plummet dangerously. That’s the future economic strength of this country in a nutshell. Guess what happens in response to 9/11? We tighten our borders and already we see a diversion of that flow to Europe. You want to know who made that call? Bin Laden did. He’s playing a game of Risk we don’t understand, because we lack the imagination to do so—because we only understand war within the context of war and not within the context of everything else.

I think Mr. Berman and I agree with Dr. Barnett that disconnectedness defines danger. And we agree that the focus of the Global War on Terror should be spreading connectivity. But firewalling the Core will do not do this. An Internet where Gap and Seam browsers have their face against the electronic glass is not an internet worth creating.

Cybersecurity is important, and some precautions must be taken. But making the Internet geographically-dependent as Berman and Beijing suggest is not in Barnett’s vision. Berman’s “identity architectures and virtual firewalls” would shut the door on those whom globalization would help the most and reinforce ghettosim. The Great Virtual Firewall of the Core and would be be a terrible step backward.

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