The Security Dilemma of Cyberspace: Ancient Logic, New Problems

Students of international relations are trained to read history—even ancient history—as a prelude to the future. Among the eternal notions that theorists commonly invoke, one enjoys special appeal: the security dilemma. It originates in Thucydides’s famous claim that “increasing Athenian greatness and the resulting fear among the Spartans made [their] going to war inevitable.”  A similar fear had fueled Athens’s grab at empire. Therein lies the dilemma: in the anarchic international system, the growing security of one state ensures the growing insecurity of others. This perverse logic produces occasional outbreaks of war, even when the contenders wish to avoid it, as in 431 B.C.

In The Cybersecurity Dilemma: Hacking, Trust and Fear Between Nations, Ben Buchanan argues that this ancient logic explains much of the incessant hostility that mars interstate dealings in cyberspace. 


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