Category Archives: The Final Appeal

Sketching…

  • Politics is the division of power. It is a climate whose state and behavior result from a constantly unfolding pattern of interference generated by agents that act and react.
  • Politicking is interference in politics. It is the range of possible patterns allowed by the current state of the political climate.
  • Policy is a specific state of interference that politicking should build towards.
  • War is violent politics. It is a climatic constant of now more and now less prominence.
  • Warfare is politicking in war. It is whatever patterns of violent politicking the current state of the political climate supports.
  • Strategy is violence-laced interference that warfare should converge upon.
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There’s no such thing as “nuclear” warfare

New Books in Science Fiction and Fantasy interviewed historian Michael Gordin about his book The Pseudoscience Wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe in a podcast episode released earlier today. The beginning of the interview covers topics Gordin covered in a previous book (Five Days in August: How World War II Became a Nuclear War). He specifically refers to problems with studying of the military history of the Cold War that overlap with some of my concerns about how studies of the military history of nuclear warfare are flawed:

  1. There is no such thing as “nuclear” warfare.
  2. Use of the catchall term “nuclear warfare” mixes up two distinct forms of warfare: fission warfare and fusion warfare.
  3. Fission warfare uses influence and violence produced by splitting atoms of certain elements for a war.
  4. Fusion warfare uses influence and violence produced by merging atoms of certain elements for a war.
  5. Violence in fission warfare has an upper bound imposed by physics that places limits on its physical side-effects.
  6. Violence in fusion warfare has no upper bound imposed by physics that place limits on its physical side-effects.
  7. Successful use of fission warfare is possible because its violence is intrinsically limited.
  8. Successful use of fusion warfare is problematic because its violence has no intrinsic limits (at least on a planetary scale).
  9. The influence produced as an effect of fission warfare or fusion warfare is hard to anticipate since that influence acts on the human mind and that mind, as an agent unto itself, reacts in ways that no existing predictive model can predict with uniform accuracy.
  10. However, knowledge that the violence of fission warfare has limits can reduce the influence produced by fission warfare because the target of its use can react with measures like dispersion to counter its effects.
  11. Knowledge that the violence of fusion warfare is only limited by the motives or production capacity of an opponent and that counter-measures have a slim chance of success can boost the influence effects that might be produced by fusion warfare.
  12. The analysis of War Minister Anami Korechika and other officers in the Japanese military after Hiroshima and Nagasaki that the military effects of fission warfare were not intrinsically different from military effects produced by other forms of Allied warfare like the American aerial bombardment or naval blockade was not fundamentally wrong or irrational.
  13. Their suggested alternative plan of forcing the Allies to invade Japan and fight an Okinawa-style exhaustion campaign as the best way to force the Allies to negotiate terms that would allow Japan to escape World War II with some of its gains was not intrinsically wrong or irrational.
  14. The primary effect of fission warfare on Japan was giving Emperor Hirohito and the “peace faction” a politically expedient excuse to do what they already wanted to do: end the war. They could now save face by blaming this “new and most cruel” form of warfare for defeating the otherwise victorious and virtuous Japanese. As Hirohito AKA “We’s” surrender message read:

    Despite the best that has been done by everyone — the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our servants of the State and the devoted service of Our one hundred million people, the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest. Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to damage is indeed incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should We continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization. Such being the case, how are We to save the millions of Our subjects; or to atone Ourselves before the hallowed spirits of Our Imperial Ancestors? This is the reason why We have ordered the Acceptance of the provisions of the Joint Declaration of the Powers.

  15. If the coup attempt by elements within the Japanese Army on August 14-15, 1945 had succeeded, Anami and the “war faction” could have followed their preferred approach with a thoroughly cowed Hirohito or, at worst, a conveniently dead Hirohito and a pliable twelve-year-old Emperor Akihito.
  16. Future use of the one available atomic bomb and six in the pipeline were unlikely to persuade such a junta to surrender all by themselves. Whatever influence the bomb would have had would have diminished as the use of each wonder weapon failed to drive Japanese Army fanatics from the war. Anami and other Japanese officers had already speculated that the American supply of bombs was limited and that those supply limits as well as their observed yield limits made the new weapon no more violent or influential than the equally violent and influential American aerial bombardment and naval blockade and Japan was already enduring those.
  17. Plans for using fission warfare as an adjunct to conventional military operations were not “irrational” during the period before fusion warfare was developed (1945-1952). The violence and contamination effects of fission warfare were containable during this time. While they were unpleasant, they were not decisive.
  18. From 1952-1965, the United States could have used fission and even fusion warfare in a war with successful effect. The USSR’s weapon, targeting, and delivery mechanisms were too few and too underdeveloped to substantially degrade American military and military-supporting capacities throughout most of that period (though the American margin of safety diminished as time went by).
  19. It was only with improvements in Soviet missile technology that gave their fusion weapons intercontinental range with reasonable accuracy and their deployment of these missiles on a large-scale in land and sea launch platforms that created an environment where “destroying the world”, “ending human civilization”, or “mutual assured destruction” were plausible (even if they weren’t guaranteed).
  20. A political entity with fusion warfare fighting capacity is not the same as a political entity with fission warfare fighting capacity. The former can inflict more physical violence than the latter and even that assumes the former has appropriate delivery vehicles and that their warfare making ability can endure retaliatory strikes by their target.

IP warfare vs. cyber warfare: One of these things is not like the other

Reading selil’s series on cyber warfare, this passage was striking:

Cyber warfare is conflict on the terrain of cyber space not on the Internet. As discussed in other sections the Internet is not the “all”. The global information grid inclusive of people through kinetic responses winding through the different communications technologies and mediums make up this inclusive cyber space. It is big.

Following this line of argument, in a previous foray (Maritime Strategy and Cyber Warfare) into cyber warfare, I overly identified cyber warfare with Internet Protocol (IP) warfare. Using selil’s broader definition, cyber warfare, involves any control infrastructure that can be subverted in ways that are contrary to the will of the control infrastructure’s de jure governing power. IP warfare involves any control system that can be subverted over and through TCP/IP. To reduce cyber warfare to IP warfare is like reducing warfare at sea to warfare in the Mediterranean Sea. Sure, a lot of naval warfare has been waged in the Mediterranean but it’s been waged in a lot of other places too.

Much of J.C. Wylie’s discussion of strategy in Military Strategy still applies to the broader field of cyber warfare, especially Wylie’s assertion that “The aim of war is some measure of control over the enemy“ along with his broader definition of strategy:

The primary aim of the strategist in the conduct of war is some selected degree of control of the enemy for the strategist’s own purpose; this is achieved by control of the pattern of war; and this control of the pattern of war is had by manipulation of the center of gravity of war to the advantage of the strategist and the disadvantage of the opponent.

The successful strategist is the one who controls the nature and the placement and the timing and the weight of the centers of gravity of war, and who exploits the resulting control of the pattern of war toward his own ends.

Some broader principles of cyber warfare might be:

  1. The primary goal is some measure of control over the enemy’s control infrastructure.
  2. The harvest reaped from achieving this control will be reaped in “meatspace“.
  3. To do this, access to their control infrastructure must be sought and maintained.
  4. Access will be through a variety of mediums, from people subverted by social engineering to direct network access.

As the goal is control, the levels of control that can be sought and achieved can be defined following the Unix permission model:

  1. Read: the power to extract knowledge from control infrastructure.
  2. Write: the power to modify the knowledge stored within control infrastructure.
  3. Execute: the power to control granted by control of control infrastructure.

These lead to six sub-levels of control, three negative and three positive. The negative and defensive sub-levels are:

  1. Prevent the enemy from extracting knowledge from your control infrastructure.
  2. Prevent the enemy from modifying the knowledge stored within your control infrastructure.
  3. Prevent the enemy from controlling you through control of your control infrastructure.

The positive and offensive sub-levels are:

  1. Get knowledge from the enemy’s control infrastructure.
  2. Modify the knowledge within the enemy’s control infrastructure.
  3. Control the enemy through control of their control infrastructure.

The goal of control is varied. It can be to spy, to deceive, to hurt, to disrupt, or to destroy. But, ultimately, the goal of control, as selil points out, is realizing something in meatspace.

Maritime strategy and cyber warfare

Reading J.C. Wylie’s Military Strategy (the best book on strategy after The Art of Warfare that can be read in one sitting without a bladder of steel) inspired these scattered thoughts on cyber warfare:

Wylie argues that, “The aim of war is some measure of control over the enemy“:

The primary aim of the strategist in the conduct of war is some selected degree of control of the enemy for the strategist’s own purpose; this is achieved by control of the pattern of war; and this control of the pattern of war is had by manipulation of the center of gravity of war to the advantage of the strategist and the disadvantage of the opponent.

The successful strategist is the one who controls the nature and the placement and the timing and the weight of the centers of gravity of war, and who exploits the resulting control of the pattern of war toward his own ends.

The “strategy of the war” is the “pattern of action by which this control is sought”. I suspect there are three levels of control in cyber warfare. Each provides an increased degree of control over the enemy. Each moves the center of gravity further into the enemy’s turf. Each acts as a stepping stone towards greater levels of control. Following Unix’s lead, these levels of control are:

  1. Read: the power to get knowledge from knowledge infrastructure.
  2. Write: the power to modify the knowledge within knowledge infrastructure.
  3. Execute: the power to control given by control of knowledge infrastructure.

These leads to six sub-levels of control, three negative and three positive. The negative and defensive sub-levels are:

  1. Prevent the enemy from getting knowledge from your knowledge infrastructure.
  2. Prevent the enemy from modifying the knowledge within your knowledge infrastructure.
  3. Prevent the enemy from controlling you through control of your knowledge infrastructure.

The positive and offensive sub-levels are:

  1. Get knowledge from the enemy’s knowledge infrastructure.
  2. Modify the knowledge within the enemy’s knowledge infrastructure.
  3. Command the enemy through control of their knowledge infrastructure.

On all of these levels, control is won by manipulating the center of gravity. The center of gravity may be the knowledge that is kept. The center of gravity may be shaping knowledge in ways that yield advantage. The center of gravity may be the degree to which knowledge infrastructure, if subverted, controls the capacity to act.

Wylie identifies two types of strategy:

  1. Sequential: “war as a series of discrete steps or actions, with each one of this series of actions growing naturally out of, and dependent on, the one that preceded it. The total pattern of all the discrete or separate actions makes up, serially, the entire sequence of the war. If at any stage of the war one of these actions had happened differently, then the remainder of the sequence wold have been interrupted and altered.”
  2. Cumulative: “a type of warfare in which the entire pattern is made up of a collection of lesser actions, but these lesser or individual actions are not sequentially independent. Each individual one is no more than a single statistic, an isolated plus or minus, in arriving at the final result…No one action is completely dependent on the one that preceded it. The thing that counts is the cumulative effect”.

The examples that Wylie gives of a sequential strategy and a cumulative strategy are both from the War in the Pacific during World War II. The first example is the island hopping campaigns conducted by Chester W. Nimitz in the central Pacific and Douglas MacArthur in the western Pacific. These followed a sequential strategy that started on the periphery of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere and inexorably moved island by island toward the Japanese home islands. The second example is the successful U.S. submarine campaign in which individual ship by individual ship and torpedo by torpedo the Japanese merchant marine was sent to the bottom of the sea, strangling the economy of the Home Islands, was a cumulative campaign.

Since Wylie is a naval officer, he discusses maritime strategy at some length, enumerating two phases that must be passed through in order to achieve control over the enemy:

  1. “The establishment of control of the sea.”
  2. “The exploitation of the control of the sea toward establishment of control on the land.”

There are two levels of control that must be achieved in the first phase:

  1. “Ensuring one’s own use of the sea”.
  2. “Denial of the enemy of his use of the sea”.

The second phase can be exploited by projecting land forces ashore, the use of economic means such as blockade or interdiction of commerce, or through the enabling of political pressure, bribery, and fomenting internal rebellion in the enemy camp. Wylie uses Britain’s maritime strategy against the Corsican Ogre as an example of this. He argues that Britain won because of three factors:

  1. British pressure never let up. It was continuous around the periphery of the French Empire and any crack in Continental System was economically exploited to the full.
  2. If the French were militarily vulnerable somewhere, the British would take military advantage of it. Wylie cites two examples: that of the Peninsular Campaign in Spain and Portugal, supplied from the sea, and that of James Saumarez, who surreptitiously negotiated a peace agreement with Sweden that freed the Russians to go to war against Buonaparte in 1812.
  3. Britain never made a single overarching plan to beat the French. It always kept flexibility and was able to exploit new opportunities as they arose.

Wylie summarizes:

Operating from the base of her firm control at sea, Britain and her allies continued their penetration of every crevice in [Buonaparte’s] armor until finally his structure fell at his heels. [Buonaparte] himself seems never to have realized that it was the ubiquity of Britain’s sea power that lent the repeatedly resurgent and finally victorious strength in the defeating of [Bounaparte].

Wylie argues that the close-in game is decisive (shades of Information Dissemination):

With respect to naval forces, a careful pondering of this question could, I believe, lead to a shift of emphasis from the blue-water reaches of the sea to the inshore soundings…I believe that a large proportion of our naval effort, particularly in the exploitation phase of the next war, must be put into tools and techniques that can seize and exploit control of the shoal and restricted waters along the enemy littoral and penetrating into the enemy territory…The problem concerns the a maintenance and exploitation of control on inshore waters, a matter that I think was handled better [during the British War to Liberate Europe from Buonaparte] than it is today.

I see parallels between Wylie’s exposition of maritime strategy and cyber warfare fought within the current Internet architecture. This architecture is summed up in three principles:

  1. dumb core
  2. smart edge
  3. mesh network

The core network of the Internet is dumb. Core Internet routers are oblivious to the content of the traffic they’re carrying. They don’t care if it’s network diagnostic information, voice, pirated movies, the Great American Novel, or teens chatting. One packet is as good as any other. It’s not the router’s job to care. All that matters is routing the packet to its next hop.

The edge gets to decide what to do with all of these packets. A host connected at the edge can determine if, when, and how it will respond to incoming requests. Once it decides, it establishes a virtual connection over the network with other hosts. It’s up to those host then to reassemble the packets it receives into a web page, an email message, VoIP, or whatever else the end user desires. If packets are missing it can request them from the host it’s chatting with. Quality assurance and interpretation of data is left to the discretion of the edge.

The Internet is a mesh network. It has no central hub like some network topologies and it isn’t a single string of connections where if one link goes down the links after it go down (hello 10Base2). It is a network where a substantial number of machines on the network are connected to each other by more than one route. Routing packets through the network is in many respects a hop to hop process. The packet never knows the entire circuit it will follow through the network (like ATM). It reaches a spot and only at that point is the next hop decided upon. This means that a break somewhere in the network is usually detected and the nodes connected to it route traffic around it.

This suggests a few possible principles of cyber warfare:

  1. First, ensure your access to the core network.
  2. Second, deny your enemy access to the core network.
  3. After these yield control of the core network, exploit that control to gain the necessary degree of control over the enemy’s own network and knowledge infrastructure.
  4. The core network is blue water and the edge is brown water. Blue water cyber warfare capability can get you too the edge but only brown water cyber warfare capability can keep you there.
  5. Due to the mesh, the core network may be susceptible to sequential strategies of control but the edge is probably only susceptible to cumulative strategies of control.
  6. Command of the core network will enable ubiquitous projection of power into enemy networks.
  7. Command of the core network enables constant pressure on a enemy network and allows constant penetration of the enemy network.
  8. The ultimate form of cyber warfare may be strategically deploying smarts in the dumb core.