Jarno Limnéll and Jan Hanska
April 15, 2013

The Whitehouse recently announced that President Barack Obama has the authority to initiate a preventive cyber strike in the event that an attack on the US is threatened. This announcement means that in the cyber domain, the military now has the authority to attack foreign nations, regardless of whether or not the US is involved in a conflict with them. This pre-emptive cyber policy has numerous implications for international politics.

Cyberweapons are truly going ballistic. They are now comparable to the ballistic nuclear missile arsenal of the US, which also resides under the jurisdiction of the President. Giving the President cyber-initiative responsibilities speaks volumes regarding the serious attitude to which they are treated.

Within the context of nuclear weapons, authorizing a pre-emptive strike has been a topic of heated discussion. This is largely due to the fact that verifying a future enemy strike is imminent is still a considerable challenge. To act on possible or probable enemy intentions is to attempt to predict the future. There is no way to determine, with certainty, that an enemy is about to attack before they actually commence an attack. Prior to that moment, nothing is certain and the vision of pre-emptive strike as a policy will simultaneously act as a deterrent and a disruptor of international stability.

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