Translating the U.S. International Cyber Strategy Into Action

Translating the U.S. International Cyber Strategy Into Action

The Stuxnet computer worm, WikiLeaks and the social-media-facilitated revolutions of the Arab Spring have already provided ample reason for a high-level U.S. policy on cyber issues. Now the killing of Osama bin Laden has provided an opening for a broader strategic dialogue in Washington, one that includes cyberspace in its proper context. This policy discussion has been a long time coming, and it has now arrived in the form of the Obama administration's "International Strategy for Cyberspace" (.pdf), which presents concepts and ideals on a cluster of diplomatic, commercial and security issues related to the global information space that the Internet and its environs have become.

It is important to establish what the strategy is not. It is not a cybersecurity plan, but rather a broad set of prescriptions relating to the Internet and information more generally. At its core, the Obama administration has enunciated a policy that places primary emphasis on the Internet as a going, growing and global concern. To borrow from Ronald Deibert and Rafal Rohozinski, the U.S. government has decided to pursue the protection of a global cybercommons. This translates to a trustworthy Internet that remains open for business, embracing innovation and accepting entrepreneurship. This means managing cybercrime, developing international standards and keeping markets open, to the maximum degree possible across sovereign boundaries.

Such objectives are in line with recent contributions to the macro-strategic literature, particularly "A National Strategic Narrative" (.pdf), written under the pseudonym "Mr. Y" by a Navy captain and a Marine colonel, and Joseph Nye's "The Future of Power." The pseudonymous work expresses the valid concern that the United States will not be able to project its military power abroad if its strategic foundation rests upon an economic bed of sand. Regarding the Internet, the message is clear. The United States, which was a key player in creating the technologies of the Information Revolution, must retain a leading role in the stewardship of the global cyber domain if it is to continue to profit from it.

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