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Caution in the Cyber Domain: Deterrence and Restraint in Cyberspace

The authors of this article address the application of deterrence – an “age old or nuclear era” concept – to cyberspace. Valeriano and Maness argue cyber deterrence is “logically problematic, empirically unsupported, and impractical” and prevents the development of theories or logics tailored to our fast-changing technological landscape. The article suggests the concept of “restraint,” or holding back and constraining state reactions to avoid escalation, offers a more appropriate framework for understanding cyber conflict/interactions. First, the authors explore the evolution of and application of deterrence, as well as the policy implications and major problems associated with the concept. Valeriano and Maness encourage strategists to give up the “crutch” of deterrence theory (deemed “irrelevant and unworkable in reality”) in order to focus on new ways of thinking and equally important dynamics such as shared norms and institutions & restraint dynamics.
Brandon Valeriano, Ryan C. Maness
Cardiff University, Northeastern University (Respectively)
Domains-Issue Area: 
Industry Focus: 
Information & Telecommunication
Internet & Cyberspace