The Virtual Weapon and International Order


Lucas Kello, Yale University Press, 319 pages, $35. This lucid and insightful book on the politics of cyberspace does a good job of persuading the reader of the near vacuum that prevails in academic work on the threats to people’s computers and networks. New technologies, he argues, have upended conventional understanding of the way states deal with defense and deterrence. The threat is pervasive; a cyberattack can hit anything from a missile-control system to a media website, with potentially profound consequences. Kello’s case studies include the crude but crippling attack on Estonia’s information systems in 2007, which was probably a Russian response to the moving of a Soviet-era war memorial. He also looks at the hack of Sony Pictures, probably by North Korea in response to the release of “The Interview,” a satirical film about the country’s leader, and the American-Israeli Stuxnet software-driven sabotage of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges. Kello, an American-educated Argentine-Estonian who now works at Oxford University, coins the term “unpeace” to describe the ambiguous, persistent irritants and stunts of recent years. He also outlines an interesting notion of “punctuated deterrence” as a way of responding to such attacks. The means employed would include military and nonmilitary means, with unpredictable timing. He is vague on the details: A serious book on cyber-deterrence would be welcomed by many. Nonetheless, readers of all kinds will find Kello’s book informative and thought-provoking.