New York Times national security correspondent Prof. David Sanger, government, Harvard University, discussed how President Barack Obama’s “light footprint” strategy has slowed nuclear proliferation but spurred unchecked cyberwarfare in the Middle East at a talk in Uris Hall Tuesday.
Obama’s “light footprint” strategy was implemented to “contain, if not change” the “chaos” in the Middle East without deploying troops, according to Sanger. The strategy aimed to use drone strikes, special forces and cyber weapons to forgo “dumb wars of occupation.”
This strategy of using “covert power” to control Middle Eastern conflicts worked in combating Iranian nuclear development during Obama’s first term.
However, during the president’s second term, cyber technology was leaked, resulting in proliferation of cyber weapons. After this leak, targets were better prepared for drone strikes and less vulnerable to cyber attacks, according to Sanger.
Despite the proliferation of cyber weapons, Sanger said “we have a lot to be thankful for. We’re in better shape than we were in 2008 financially.”
“At the same time, we find ourselves facing an array of seemingly familiar threats from the past fifteen years,” Sanger said. Jihadism has grown more violent, terrorists have become more empowered, and cyber technology has “now resulted in more state-sponsored attacks than we thought possible in 2010,” Sanger added.
Sanger analogized cyber weapons to nuclear weapons, but cyber weapons, unlike nuclear weapons, are cheap, fast to develop and adjustable, according to Sanger. Cyber weapons are only effective on technologically advanced countries, Sanger added, making the United States “the most vulnerable country on Earth” to cyber attacks.
“Cyber [weaponry] gives the least connected, the least powerful, the least rich countries and terror groups a weapon they can get cheaply and, unlike nuclear weapons, they can actually use,” Sanger said.
The threat of cyber weaponry is rarely addressed by the government because it still treats cyber technology with such secrecy that it will not discuss the specifics of the United States’ cyber capacity, Sanger added.
“Do we have a strategy for this? If we do I haven’t seen one yet,” Sanger said. “And as we legitimize this as a weapon of covert conflict, if not more, others are going to be introducing it as well.”