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The Mice that Roar: What Small Countries Can Teach Great Powers About National Cyber-Defense

  • Author(s): Griffith, Melissa Kate;
  • Advisor(s): Aggarwal, Vinod K.;
  • et al.
Abstract

What factors affect the organization and efficacy of national cyber-defense efforts? In The Mice that Roar: What Small Countries Can Teach Great Powers About National Cyber-Defense, I argue that an important piece of the answer lies within the history and institutions of an often-overlooked yet significant sub-group of countries. Given that effective defense in cyberspace requires extensive civilian-military and public-private cooperation and coordination (a societal defense posture), American policymakers and academics alike frequently characterized national defense efforts in cyberspace as a significant departure from pre-existing kinetic national defense efforts in the domains of air, land, and sea. Notably, however, how states’ experience this disjuncture varies. In the case of the Mice that Roar, their pre-existing national defense approaches more closely resemble the desired solution set to national defense in cyberspace (Whole of Society) than the pre-existing approaches found in far larger powers like the United States (U.S.) or the United Kingdom (U.K.). Importantly, these architectures exist, in large part, precisely because these states are not historically strong and resource-rich. Crucially, the historical defense problem these states faced due to deep vulnerability born from their relative size and geopolitical position has key conceptual and operational similarities with the problem of critical interconnectedness (their dependence on and the interconnectivity of cyberspace) now facing all advanced industrial states in the cyber era. In other words, by solving for significant vulnerability, these states also solved, in part, for critical interconnectedness.

By focusing specifically on how a subset of relatively small yet successful states, the Mice that Roar, have pursued national cyber-defense, the dissertation’s argument and findings challenge two prevailing assumptions in security studies and cyber conflict scholarship: (1) that larger states with more resources will be better positioned to provide national defense for their populations and (2) that national cyber-defense, as a central task of states, represents a significant departure from the core requirements of national defense in the domains of air, land, and sea (i.e. that it represents a new type of defense problem for states to address).

In addition, my work promises to augment the study of cyber conflict in political science and contribute to policy discussions in two important ways. First, through a focus on often understudied countries in international security studies and cyber conflict studies, this dissertation takes an important step in the ongoing process of delineating systemic dynamics from situational dynamics in cyberspace: i.e. dynamics all states face due to the threat space versus dynamics that are significantly mediated through national contexts and circumstances. Second, this project illustrates that in our efforts to understand cybersecurity in the context of national security and pursue policy solutions, previously overlooked insights for the organization and efficacy of national cyber-defense efforts lay outside the more heavily studied histories of states such as the U.S.

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