Book Launch: The Virtual Weapon and International Order (Yale University Press)



The Virtual Weapon Book Launch


On October 25, 2017 the Centre held a book launch for Centre Director Lucas Kello’s new book, The Virtual Weapon and the International Order (Yale University Press, 2017). The book addresses the ways in which the current cyber revolution disrupts interstate dealings and empowers subversive actors in the international system. Professor Kalypso Nicolaïdis chaired the event, which was co-sponsored by the Centre for International Studies.


Dr. Kello opened the session with brief remarks on the substance of the book. In his words, “despite significant experience with cyber events, the conceptual apparatus to analyze, understand, and address their effects on international order remains rudimentary.” The book seeks to address this gap in understanding by proposing conceptual benchmarks of “technological revolution” and by exploring a broad range of case studies—including the Stuxnet operation against Iran, the cyberattacks against Sony Pictures, and the disruption of the 2016 US presidential election. By synthesizing data from government documents, forensic reports of major events, and interviews with senior decisionmakers, the book establishes new theoretical benchmarks to help security experts revise strategy and policy for the unprecedented challenges of our times.

The discussion also explored the parallels in Dr. Kello’s book between the fundamental shift in the international order brought about by the advent of the atomic bomb, and the changes caused by the proliferation of cyber technology, emphasizing both the utility and the limitations of such historical analogies in the study of technological revolution.

In particular, Dr. Kello elaborated on the limitation of classical deterrence models developed in the nuclear era, which repeatedly fail to prevent major acts of cyber aggression. He expounded on his notion of “Punctuated Deterrence,” which seeks to deter not single attacks, but series of attacks and their cumulative effects at a moment selected by the defender. By responding to a suite of actions, rather than to single actions, states can communicate potential punishments more credibly and thus achieve more effective deterrence.


Visit the publisher's website

Read a review of the book in The Economist