Friday, March 27, 2020

Is Information Warfare Just?

In today’s ever-changing world of technology, a new type of warfare has arisen called information warfare. Defined by  Professor Dan Keuhl of the National Defense University as "two or more groups waging warfare in the information environment."  Examples would be the jamming of radio and internet communications, or even just posting “fake news” online to spread misinformation in the populace. Information warfare is so prevalent, that there have been calls for the United States to create an information warfare command. However, one has to wonder, if all of this right, is it ethical to undertake these practices, is information warfare just?

The concept of a Just War is defined under the two terms “Just Ad Bellum” and “Jus in Bello.” Respectively meaning the “right to go to war” and “right conduct in war.” Both of these principles were coined by Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica. He also addresses that war must have “just cause” as well as what these just causes are. Later philosophers have expanded upon these concepts as the world and technology have evolved, but the principles remain the same.

One conflict that information warfare has with these principles is that it provides much less risk than, say, a ground assault or a bombing. This allows the entity conducting the warfare to make these attacks much more often than they could otherwise. Despite writing how war is justified, Aquinas, as well as future scholars, make clear that war is only a last resort when all other methods of negotiation and diplomacy have failed. This is partly because war carries a risk for both countries, namely the loss of human lives. Information warfare does not risk any human lives at all, it does not harm the attacker and only harms the defender. It a country just wanted to jam another’s internet for x period of time, then they could with no harm to any of their populace.

Another concern is the frequency of information warfare attacks on civilians, especially on social media outlets. Another way to look at this is so-called “fake news.” Aquinas brings up in his Just War theory that combatants should not and cannot target civilians. However, isn’t "fake news" targeting civilians. Is it just to do so because they are not being directly harmed?  This brings up the other ethical issue of right to privacy. If governments try to enforce control of civilian infrastructure and technology in an attempt to stop information warfare. Is that ethical? In the United States at least, the answer would be no and that makes efforts to stop information warfare campaigns waged against the United States next to impossible.

Of course, one could argue that information warfare, as well as other types of warfare such as cyber, are not considered “conventional warfare” and therefore require a new set of principles. Is this correct, or should these principles still apply? That is a question needs to be decided by international governments and fast, since as technology keeps involving, information warfare will become easier and easier to wage and will become more and more prevalent.

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