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Cyberspace in Peace and War

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Cyberspace in Peace and War by Martin C. Libicki, 2016, 496 pp. 

Today’s threat environment has become more complex than ever. With never-ending attacks from terror groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and rogue states causing trouble on the world stage, it is easy to forget about what is behind the scenes during these conflicts. Behind the scenes in today’s environment is a gray area of shadows and ghosts—where everything isn’t what it seems to be, and attacks are carried out by proxies and people with no faces or from countries of unknown origins. Welcome to the complex world of cyberspace.


Cyberspace is nothing new to the United States and its allies. However it proves to be the most hassling, and by all news accounts, the least talked about. Operating in cyberspace is by far one of the most important spheres that the United States can be involved with as cyberspace touches almost everything we use today. In some form or fashion, our home computers, cell phones, tablets, and even coffee makers are connected to the Internet and cyberspace. On a national scale our power grid, nuclear power plants, and other critical infrastructure resources are connected to cyberspace. These assets, if targeted by a massive cyberattack, can set the nation back to the 1800s, thus severely limiting the nation’s capability to insert its dominance on a global scale. In Cyberspace in Peace and War, Martin Libicki details what the United States can do to prevent such an attack. His approach in this text brings together many aspects of how cyberspace is used during peace and war and combines them into a well-constructed, analytical and detail-oriented format on various cyber-related topics.


This text is broken down into five separate parts that discuss various aspects of technology, operations, policy, and strategy. After reading this book, the reader will come away with an in-depth and detailed understanding of all those areas and how they relate to US policy and the potential outcomes in cyberspace because of those policies. Libicki offers numerous “what if?” scenarios, backed by case examples of incidents involving cyberspace from countries around the world. One of the most intriguing aspects of the text—that those involved in any national security studies course or position will find valuable—is a chapter on a cyberattack in a nuclear confrontation. Nuclear weapons seem to be only discussed, as of late, when dealing with countries like Iran or North Korea. However, cyberspace introduces new concepts on how to fight a nuclear war, and Mr. Libicki clearly focuses on these concepts. The strategic level of thinking on display during this particular chapter will give any reader an appreciation of the amount of research the author has conducted to write this text.


The thought-provoking questions posed and arguments provided within the text offer countless ways to look at various problems, policies, and strategies in the cyberspace arena. These questions and arguments will only aid in the further development of US cyberspace policy in peace and war. Lastly, this book is recommended for those who want a basic understanding of cyberspace to those who currently hold a position within the realm of national security and everyone in-between. This book is truly a modern classic on the topic of cyberspace.


MSgt Justin J. Jacobsen, USAF
Kirtland AFB, New Mexico

The views expressed in the book review are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense.

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