Cyber & Conflict: Transformative Change or Status Quo Dynamics?

“Cyber & Conflict: Transformative Change or Status Quo Dynamics?” Panel,
2016 APSA Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, PA

Over the last twenty years, cyber technologies have emerged in modern warfare, introducing significant uncertainty about capabilities, intentions, and the limits of conflict. How does the explosion of cyber technologies on and off the battlefield transform the dynamics of conflict initiation and the probability of war? Have cyber capabilities fundamentally altered crisis dynamics such that states are more likely to inadvertently or intentionally escalate crises to war? This roundtable brings together cyber practitioners, cyber scholars, regional experts, and established theorists to debate theoretical and policy questions about how cyberspace operations and technology may impact conflict initiation. For some on the roundtable, the complexity and interdependence of cyber operations and technology decreases the probability for conflict while for others the extreme uncertainty, speed of evolving capabilities, and perception of offense dominance increases the potential for conflict. A series of analogies to platforms and historical examples have failed to come to any definitive conclusion about the impact of cyber technologies on conflict initiation making this debate a particularly relevant and timely topic for APSA 2016’s transformation theme. In addition, there is a significant rift that exists between academics skeptical about the revolutionary qualities or effects of cyber and practitioners forecasting massive changes to the stability of the international system. This roundtable brings together these conflicting perceptions of cyber’s transformative nature and conflict initiation and seeks to foster future research into these puzzling questions.

Emily O. Goldman

Robert Jervis, Columbia University
Jacquelyn Schneider, Naval War College
Erik Gartzke, UCSD
Jon R. Lindsay, University of Toronto
Austin Carson, University of Chicago
Fiona Stephanie Cunningham, Political Science Department, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Joshua Rovner, Southern Methodist University