First-Strike Advantage: The United States' Counter to China's Preemptive Integrated Network Electronic Warfare Strategy
AIR UNIV MAXWELL AFB AL SCHOOL OF ADVANCED AIR AND SPACE STUDIES
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This study aims to assess the advantage of the United States adopting a first-strike stratagem in cyberspace for confronting Chinas first-strike stratagem. The most likely scenario for this stratagem is if China decides to invade Taiwan, they will likely strike at US logistics and command and control infrastructure preemptively in order to delay and inhibit a US response. Analyzing both China and the Unites States political and military aims as well as the states cyber capabilities provides a foundation for analyzing the specific context of a stratagem. In order to determine the usefulness of a first-strike stratagem in cyberspace, the study first analyzes the conditions for a first-strike advantage with nuclear weapons as well as space weapons. These conditions and the characteristics of the weapons themselves are then compared to the conditions of war in cyberspace and cyber weapons to determine how a first-strike stratagem would be advantageous in cyberspace. This study has several findings. First, the first-strike advantage of cyber weapons compared to nuclear weapons is vastly different and results in a first-strike stratagem using cyber weapons for deterrence as not useful. Second, a first-strike advantage is gained when countering cyber weapons and some conventional weapons. Third, first-strike in cyberspace is likely to be the most useful for coercion by denial, less useful for coercion via risk, and least useful for coercion through punishment. Fourth, a first-strike stratagem fits very well with US strategic and military aims, although a declaratory stratagem aimed at deterrence is not useful in cyberspace, one that is not declared could be very useful. Fifth, technology and cyberspace is continuously changing, which will affect the future usefulness of a first-strike stratagem for deterrence.