Sunday, October 10, 2010

The US Ambassador to Cyberspace?

by Carl W. Hunt
Several members of the SENDS Consortium have reviewed the SENDS Science of Cyberspace White Paper. This paper proposes interdisciplinary ways to proceed in the development of such a body of science, including education (which in fact is a separate SENDS task, and discussed in an earlier blog). One important topic that was only briefly mentioned in the White Paper, however, is the policy and political science approach to a Science of Cyberspace.
In the White Paper we briefly discuss pending legislation that has gone to committee (Senate Bill 3193, “International Cyberspace and Cybersecurity Coordination Act of 2010”) and follow-up articles on the US State Department (e.g., here and here) about their potential responsibilities under such an act if it became law. While it is not clear if this particular legislation will be enacted, it’s apparent that at least some in the Administration and Congress consider the uniqueness and the ubiquity of cyberspace as an environment that requires a diplomatic presence in order to engage in the international emergence of globally present interconnectivity. Some observers quoted in the two articles cited even mentioned an “Ambassador to Cyberspace.”
It’s worth discussing a bit more about what such a diplomatic position might entail, what could be some of its contributions, and what SENDS might do in support of such an effort. Two recent publications point even more directly at the need for this discussion. The first, a Wired Magazine piece from the October, 2010 edition, entitled “Post-State Diplomacy,” raises the issue of how a nation-state like the US conducts diplomacy with non-nation-states within cyberspace. Although slightly irreverent in its approach, Wired presents a good point about diplomacy that we’ll take up in future blogs.
The Wired piece is particularly worth discussing in the context of new thinking about the “Global Commons” and the ways in which cyberspace is such an important component of it. This is brought out in a recent essay by Capt Mark Redden, USN, and Col Michael Hughes, USAF, “Global Commons and Domain Interrelationships: Time for a New Conceptual Framework?” from the National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS). They discuss the Commons as air, sea, space and cyberspace.
The INSS paper tells us that for the last 60 years, it has been the responsibility of the US military to guarantee national access to the Commons (see US National Defense Strategy). Both military and diplomatic challenges in the last 10-12 years are changing this paradigm, according to the essay, with the domain of cyberspace bringing about the most acute challenges. “Despite its breadth of use within both the civilian and defense sectors, the U.S. defense community’s understanding of the full impact of cyberspace on military capabilities and operations is modest at best,” note Redden and Hughes.
Unfortunately, Redden and Hughes miss several important opportunities to discuss interrelationships of the “Commons” environments in the context of Interagency interdependencies and their own “interdomain” interactions. Fortunately, they do briefly discuss the issues in relationship to the DIME construct (Diplomacy, Informational, Military and Economic bases for national power) at least raising the visibility of non-military perspectives in US relationships in the Commons, including cyberspace.
Diplomacy is critical, not only for traditional reasons, but for what the authors call “expanding interdomain relationships,” which means all the components of the Commons interacting and becoming ever more interdependent. This is even more relevant when thinking about the domains of the Commons interacting within the context of how Whole of Government entities think about the Commons consistent with their own organizational missions: “interdomain” perspectives can have multiple contexts. This line of thinking is a key contribution the INSS presents for the Interagency community to explore.
The investigation of many things “inter-” (interaction, interdependency, interrelationships, “interdomain”, etc.,) compose a major part of SENDS research. Interdomain, interagency thinking is a significant area that SENDS offers to synergize with the approach it takes in the development of the Science of Cyberspace. Redden and Hughes do a fine job teasing out the important insights about the environments of the “interdomain” to think about here, but it is at least as important to think about non-military perspectives as it is the military roles.
We would like to discuss more of the role an “Ambassador of Cyberspace” might play in shaping a fuller articulation of a national strategy for security and prosperity, and will solicit more participation as the SENDS Pilot unfolds. For the time being though, we want to ask readers and followers of SENDS to think about how we as a national entity interact with the rest of the world from a diplomatic standpoint.
How would the “US Ambassador to Cyberspace” interact with others, state and non-state, and what would they seek in representing the nation? As the Wired piece points out, dealing with non-states requires a different type of “diplomacy” than what we have practiced in state-to-state interrelationships.
Those of us taking on the work of developing a Science of Cyberspace appreciate the important assertions and questions raised by the Wired Magazine article and the INSS essay. As we have suggested in other presentations on SENDS, we may find insights from the way business and non-governmental organizations interact with both states and non-states, but that is only a proposal for the first “Ambassador to Cyberspace” to explore.
Several of the SENDS advisors worked on a project a few years ago that produced a concept we called the “CyberDIME” which we'll talk more about in future blogs as part of the challenge the Wired Magazine article poses. This notion suggests diminishing the role that the military takes in “interdomain” and “international” interrelationships, which while not the focus of the INSS paper, must be considered in the age of massive interconnectivity. SENDS also offers to open the forum for this discussion, as well.

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