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Book Review: @war: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex

?Houghton Mifflin Harcourt;; 288 pages; $27

As the ongoing threat of cyberattacks continues to reveal itself, authors find new dimensions on which to focus. Not merely a commercial pursuit, this search for originality can be an honest reflection of an author�s desire to expand the body of available knowledge. It is in this context that @War:The Rise of the Military-Internet?? Complex deserves merit. Author Shane Harris proposes that the rise of the private sector�s role in combating cyberattacks, among other things, helps to create a circumstance similar to the �military-industrial complex� that President Eisenhower warned about in 1960. That novel idea shapes a potentially useful construct as the security industry moves forward to counter this evolving threat.

Nevertheless, much of Harris�s book covers familiar ground. We read again about military and civilian officialdom scrambling to counter the increasing cyberthreat as the war in Iraq reaches its peak, pockets of authority and power congealing as the threat appears increasingly ominous. Landmark episodes, such as the �Buckshot Yankee� penetration of systems thought to be secure, are rehashed. And the implementation of STUXNET is described once more. Rather than simply recount these events, Harris uses them to detail his portrait of government and industrial entities as they collaborate�and sometimes compete�with each other to find effective countermeasures and promising approaches.�

Harris doesn�t ignore the human currents of this dynamic. His account contains descriptions of individuals that textbooks characterize as �cyber warriors.� One, for example, follows the career and personal growth of a young man who enters the military, shows an aptitude for cyber power, and rises in the interplay among the most influential titans of the military, government, and industrial sectors as they grapple with the most critical cyber issues yet encountered. @War underscores the reality that future paths in the cyber realm may depend enormously on individuals who may be truly cast as cyber warriors.

Similarly, Harris grapples with a challenging aspect of incorporating cyber strength into war and conflict�the ethical dilemmas it creates. In cyber conflict, questions regarding what constitutes a just and proportionate response to the use of force remain under discussion. The new traits of conflict introduced by increasing reliance on the Internet, such as the easy availability of anonymity, will only make the discussions more difficult.�

@War will be followed by other good books dealing with cyberthreats and conflict and most will offer insights worth considering. The authors of the best of these distinguish themselves by endeavoring, as Harris does, to hold a mirror up to ourselves.


Reviewer: Jim Dunne, CPP, is a member of the ASIS�Council for Global Terrorism, Political Instability, and International Crime. He is a part-time instructor at the George Washington University and a senior analyst in the State Department�s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. The views expressed are his own and not necessarily those of the U.S. government.