Last month I complained, far too prematurely, that in the wake of revelations about Chinese cyberattacks against Google services, international rhetoric was largely ignoring the insidious underlying signals about the dangers of Chinese cybermilitary prowess. Since then, of course, news outlets have seen a deluge of commentary about the next “digital war,” enhanced by follow-up investigations into the Google attacks, as well as Hilary Clinton’s speech last month on Internet security. The general consensus seems to consistently boil down to two points: a) The world is speeding towards a trend in digital, highly networked warfare, and b) The U.S. is not nearly as prepared for this as it should be.

This is not a new criticism. But even if you take out the digital aspect of this new tide in warfare, criticisms against the U.S.’s approach to security operations and conflict still seem to suggest that the American military is slow to adapt. We still have the latest technology, the biggest guns, and thousands of nuclear warheads that can destroy that world several times over. Yet, in the “War Issue” of Foreign Policy magazine released just today, a commentary on the U.S.’s lack of understanding of networking stings:

“…the United States is spending huge amounts of money in ways that are actually making Americans less secure, not only against irregular insurgents, but also against smart countries building different sorts of militaries. And the problem goes well beyond weapons and other high-tech items. What’s missing most of all from the U.S. military’s arsenal is a deep understanding of networking, the loose but lively interconnection between people that creates and brings a new kind of collective intelligence, power, and purpose to bear — for good and ill.

Civil society movements around the world have taken to networking in ways that have done far more to advance the cause of freedom than the U.S. military’s problematic efforts to bring democracy to Iraq and Afghanistan at gunpoint. As for “uncivil society,” terrorists and transnational criminals have embraced connectivity to coordinate global operations in ways that simply were not possible in the past. Before the Internet and the World Wide Web, a terrorist network operating cohesively in more than 60 countries could not have existed. Today, a world full of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallabs awaits — and not all of them will fail.”

The rest of the issue looks to be an intriguing read on the shifting tides in modern war. But perhaps even this one critique is myopic still. Unrestricted Warfare, a 1999 best-selling book in China and a heavy influence on the People’s Liberation Army, advocated this approach to war in the modern age:

“War which has undergone the changes of modern technology and the market system will be launched even more in atypical forms. In other words, while we are seeing a relative reduction in military violence, at the same time we definitely are seeing an increase in political, economic, and technological violence. However, regardless of the form the violence takes, war is war, and a change in the external appearance does not keep any war from abiding by the principles of war.

If we acknowledge that the new principles of war are no longer ‘using armed force to compel the enemy to submit to one’s will,’ but rather are ‘using all means, including armed force or non-armed force, military and non-military, and lethal and non-lethal means to compel the enemy to accept one’s interests.'”

Perhaps this is what we really should be preparing for.

Photo Attributed to: Chris Roberts

Written by Brianna Lee