Saturday, July 15, 2017

Cybersecurity Beyond U.S. Borders: Engaging Allies and Deterring Aggressors in Cyberspace

David Inserra,

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Cyberspace is a unique realm that challenges the U.S. in multiple ways. These challenges include the cyber domain’s reach, speed, anonymous nature, and offense-dominated conflict. Given that cyberspace is an environment defined by ubiquity and anonymity and that cyberspace also has physical components and people located in different places around the world, international cybersecurity efforts are both important and difficult. Working together on cyber issues includes military cooperation with allies as well as working together to strengthen civilian cyber defenses to make hacking more difficult and less lucrative. Beyond cyber defense and offense, pushing and working with nations around the world to combat cybercrime and punish those who engage in aggressive cyber behavior themselves can help reduce the number of cyber attacks. ...

States like Russia and China also depend on repression and censorship to maintain control of their populations, albeit using different techniques. While “democracy promotion” may seem to be a relatively minor activity, and one that the U.S. should be engaged in regardless of the threat, this policy option more than passively, indirectly, or softly supports democratic movements in authoritarian nations. In this context, democracy promotion includes a substantial increase in public, diplomatic, financial, and legal support for organizations and individuals that seek dramatic democratic reforms and challenge governments that do not respect individual liberty, the rule of law, or the right to vote for an opposition government.

Such policies directly challenge these authoritarian regimes, striking at their monopoly on power and information. At its most basic form, this means using U.S. public diplomacy to counter the growing tide of Chinese and Russian propaganda. With China and Russia doing all they can to portray themselves and their actions as legitimate and positive, the U.S. needs to return its public diplomacy measures to where they were in the 1980s, when the U.S. discredited the Soviet Union with audiences across the world, including within the Soviet Union.45 Helle Dale, Ariel Cohen, and Janice Smith, “Challenging America: How Russia, China, and Other Countries Use Public Diplomacy to Compete with the U.S.,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 2698, June 21, 2012,

Sadly, U.S. public diplomacy fell into disrepair after the Cold War, as peace dividends and reorganizations claimed the effectiveness of this great tool. On the other hand, Russia and China actively challenge U.S. policies and leadership through their propaganda forces. The Russian and Chinese efforts in this arena are met with limited or ineffective responses from the U.S.

This must change—the U.S. must actively counter such propaganda both around the world and within these countries. Public diplomacy programs, such as the Voice of America, allow the U.S. to effectively promote a better image of the United States while countering anti-U.S. campaigns. To be more effective in countering anti-U.S. propaganda, U.S. broadcasts should be reformed, with operations manned by individuals dedicated to the U.S. and her values and with broadcasts that do not merely provide news but also include staunch support of U.S. policies and values.46 Helle Dale, “A Snub to Congress: Oversight of International Broadcasting Agency in Question,” The Daily Signal, September 20, 2014,

The U.S. should not be in the business of merely paying for another source of news—it should actively promote U.S. policies and principles while sharing news about the world from the U.S. perspective. Research into, and collection of, best practices in public diplomacy should be jump-started. Embassy officials should receive uniform guidance on how to more directly challenge disinformation and spread the truth about U.S. policies, as well as the truth about repression within various regions.47 Dale, Cohen, and Smith, “Challenging America.”

Going further, the U.S. should take a more active role in supporting dissidents and democratic activists. Such action also requires that U.S. public diplomacy mechanisms be reinvigorated. By using a variety of mediums, including radio, television, and the Internet, the U.S. can provide dissidents in repressive states with information and support. Radio Free Asia and the Broadcasting Board of Governors can more aggressively spread information and broadcasts and supply dissidents with technology that allows them to communicate with others and protect themselves from the prying eyes of the Chinese censors and police. The U.S. can offer similar tools, information, and protections to critics of Vladimir Putin through Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.48 Daniel Kochis, “Countering Russian Propaganda Abroad,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder No. 4286, October 21, 2014, ...

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