Strategic thought on cyberwar is in its infancy. Like airpower in the 1910s, today ideas, principles and doctrine on how best to use this potential weapon are at the early stages. And just as lingering questions about whether airpower could be usefully employed as an instrument of war were answered by the experience of World War One, so too did a real-life conflict point to a role for cyber attack in war, this time the Russia-Georgia conflict of 2008. Debates from the 1990s about whether offensive or only defensive information warfare was admissible were replaced in the 2000s and 2010s with explicit attempts to develop offensive capabilities and accompanying doctrine on cyberwar. This chapter examines strategic thought on the conduct of war in the cyber dimension.

One area where cyberwar breaks markedly from airpower, seapower and landpower is in having natural boundaries with regard to the subject matter. The rough contours of what may be considered part of airpower, seapower or landpower are readily identifiable, but what exactly do we mean by cyberwar? The confusion is implicitly alluded to above with the use of the term ‘information warfare’, only one component of which is, in actual fact, cyberwar. As a result, we begin by defining the parameters of cyberwar for the purposes of this volume, before examining the ideas of key strategic thinkers on cyberwar. They include, among others, Martin Libicki, John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt of the RAND Corporation, the Pentagon’s military leadership, and the PLA. Information is admittedly sparse, in part because strategic thought on cyberwar is relatively new, but also because the combination of military organizations as strategic thinkers, and the close link between cyberwar and intelligence assets, means that only limited information exists in the unclassified domain. What follows no doubt only scrapes the surface of the true depths of contemporary strategic thinking on cyberwar.