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Warfighting for cyber deterrence: a strategic and moral imperative

Lonsdale, David J.


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Dr David Lonsdale
Senior Lecturer/ Programme Director, BA War Studies/ Programme Director, MA Strategy and International Security


Theories of cyber deterrence are developing rapidly. However, the literature is missing an important ingredient—warfighting for deterrence. This controversial idea, most commonly associated with nuclear strategy during the later stages of the Cold War, affords a number of advantages. It provides enhanced credibility for deterrence, offers means to deal with deterrence failure (including intrawar deterrence and damage limitation), improves compliance with the requirements of just war and ultimately ensures that strategy continues to function in the post-deterrence environment. This paper assesses whether a warfighting for deterrence approach is suitable for the cyber domain. In doing so, it challenges the notion that warfighting concepts are unsuitable for operations in cyberspace. To do this, the work constructs a conceptual framework that is then applied to cyber deterrence. It is found that all of the advantages of taking a warfighting stance apply to cyber operations. The paper concludes by constructing a warfighting model for cyber deterrence. This model includes passive and active defences and cross-domain offensive capabilities. The central message of the paper is that a theory of victory (strategy) must guide the development of cyber deterrence.


Lonsdale, D. J. (2018). Warfighting for cyber deterrence: a strategic and moral imperative. Philosophy && Technology, 31(3), 409-429.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 13, 2017
Online Publication Date Feb 2, 2017
Publication Date Sep 1, 2018
Deposit Date Jan 19, 2017
Publicly Available Date Feb 2, 2017
Journal Philosophy & technology
Print ISSN 2210-5433
Electronic ISSN 2210-5441
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 31
Issue 3
Pages 409-429
Keywords Cyberspace; Deterrence; Warfighting; Strategy; Cyberwar; Ethics
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Additional Information Copy of article first published in: Philosophy & technology, 2017. The final publication is available at Springer via


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© The Author(s) 2017<br /> Open Access<br /> This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

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