Coercion and Cyberspace

Miguel Alberto Gomez argues that even though states are increasingly employing cyber operations as coercive instruments of foreign policy, such operations have had limited success. So what accounts for the failure of such operations? To help provide an answer, our author here explores how the structure of cyberspace affects coercive behavior and the attributes required for successful coercion, which include 1) the clear communication of a threat; 2) suitable cost-benefit calculations; 3) the credibility of the coercer; and 4) reassurances from a coercer that a threat will be rescinded upon compliance.


Cyberspace is a new domain for coercive operations in support of foreign policy and security with advantages for offensive actions and hindrances to its success.


This ARI provides an overview of factors crucial in our understanding of coercive cyber operations as the exercise of power through cyberspace in order to coerce an adversary into a particular course of action. It its focused on the compellent actions of the state actors though they, and non-state actors, may carry out deterrent actions as well. The first section presents the fundamentals of coercion. The second frames coercion in the context of cyberspace and surfaces the characteristics of the domain that enables it. Finally, the third establishes the causes behind coercive failure and, inversely, success.

Source : CSS ETH

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