Why didn’t the Pentagon let slip the dogs of cyberwar on Gaddafi? Depends on whom you talk to, I guess.
According to Monday’s report by the New York Times’ Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, the main reason “administration officials and even some military officers balked [at a cyber attack on Libya]" was because they "fear[ed] that it might set a precedent for other nations, in particular Russia or China, to carry out such offensives of their own, and questioning whether the attack could be mounted on such short notice…”
According to today’s story by The Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima, however, the main reason the administration demurred was because "there was not enough time for a cyber attack to work.”
The Times also cited the timing problem. But from its ranking of reasons, one might infer that cyberwar has now come of age, earning the dubious distinction of being accorded the same frightful respect as nuclear weapons. Which is to say, once they're unleashed, there's no telling what will happen. In the depths of the U.S.-Soviet cold war, the balance of terror was known as MAD, or Mutually Assured Destruction.
It’s a new way to think about cyberwar. Or perhaps it’s just a passing affirmation of what the experts have been warning about for years now: An all-out e-attack on the United States by such cyber-superpowers as China, Russia or North Korea, could shut us down. Take away the computer networks from which we get our power, heat, fuel and money, and where are we?
Dead in the water. Or as we once talked about nuclear war, back in the Stone Age.