Cyber Strategy: The Evolving Character of Power and Coercion, Brandon Valeriano Benjamin Jensen & Ryan C. Maness

Hello my lovely nerds!

This is another more academic review today, being as how at least a few of you have seen me curse about and struggle with this book on my Instagram for the last several weeks. And the things is, it wasn’t because this was a bad book. It isn’t. I actually really liked this book, as you will soon see. But for whatever reason, I found it really difficult to sit down and concentrate on this book for longer than fifteen or twenty pages at a time, so the struggle was real on this one.

Now, I have read the work of these authors before, and in fact reviewed another book by Valeriano and Maness for the Political Studies Review. That book, Cyber War Versus Cyber Realities, was one of my favourite reads that year. This book, written by Valeriano, Jensen & Maness is written in the same engaging-but-academic style, making it an easy book to read (usually. See above).

As you may or may not know, I am currently in the business of undertaking a PhD, and my research topic is the development of cyber counterintelligence. Now, this book doesn’t directly relate to that topic, but as all cyber scholars know, all things eventually circle home when you’re studying cyberspace. Plus, as mentioned before, I already liked the work of these authors before I picked the book up. Winning.

Cyber Strategy is a unique book in that I have honestly not read (or seen) another book thus far be completely devoted to a study of cyber strategy, or the ways in which States in the international system use their cyber power, and what that cyber power actually is (how it is measured, shall we say). The book asks really interesting questions about the so-called cyber power and cyber strategies of States as well. For example: if a cyber operation is undertaken and degradation measures prove successful, then was the victim State coerced into acting by the cyber operation, or by the fact that the aggressor State has other forms of power more likely to instill fear in opponents? This is a really important question for political scientists and researchers because to understand State behaviour we need to know what motivates them, what they fear, how they weigh their decisions, what they value. If a State takes action B instead of action A following cyberattack 1, was the change in action because of cyberattack 1, or because State B feared that State A (more wealthy, powerful, and with greater cyber and military capabilities) would take or has taken further action other than in cyberspace?

This might all seem a bit esoteric to anyone not in the field (I get it, I really do) but these are important questions that need to be asked, and this book forms an important first step in answering them so that we can go on to conduct further research that will allow us to understand how States view, understand, and use cyberspace.

This is a really, really interesting text that is very much worth the time to read.


Photo credit: my photo of my copy of the book (purchased by me).

Categories: cyber, Nonfiction Reviews

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