Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Other people do not see us as the most noble people on Earth

From an article raising the question whether the U.S. should more actively and openly engage in cyber-attacks:
“The United States has been caught using Stuxnet to conduct a covert cybercampaign against Iran as well as trawling the Internet with the massive Prism collection operation,” Mr. [Jason] Healey [director of the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at the Atlantic Council] wrote recently, referring to the N.S.A.’s data-mining program. “The world is increasingly seeing U.S. cyberpower as a force for evil in the world. A cyberoperation against Syria might help to reverse this view.”
This logic seems incredibly misguided to me. Even from the viewpoint of a country where people do not like Assad and would like him removed from power, an American cyber-attack that grounds his airforce, shuts off power in his military bases, and otherwise cripples his defenses to allow the rebels to take over, would be terrifying. Sure, maybe that time the U.S. used its cyber-powers for good. But what about next time? If the U.S. is willing to do that, it might be willing to do that against anyone else in the world. Even if you agree with American goals this time, you might not next time.

An open cyber-attack by the U.S. is not going to reassure anyone. The entire idea that non-Americans would take comfort in American power is utter nonsense, just as there is no way that the American people would feel comfortable if the Chinese revealed that they had some secret weapon that could be used to take out any government it wants. And that would be true even if the Chinese demonstrated that technology by taking out someone we did not like.

 Underlying all of this is the semi-delusional American assumption that: (a) the U.S. is basically a force for good in the world, and (b) everyone else will recognize our essential goodness and give us all the benefit of the doubt. I don't know why so many Americans make these assumptions about themselves. But they are not true. And their persistence in the American consciousness means that we are much more likely to buy into bone-headed military adventurism.Would Bush have been as able to sell the Iraq war to the American public if people didn't think that U.S. soldiers would be cheered as liberators?