No Shortcuts: Why States Struggle to Develop a Military Cyber-Force

Over the past decade, numerous states have declared cyberspace as a new domain of warfare. Accordingly, they have sought to develop military cyber strategies and establish national cyber commands. These developments have led to much policy talk and concern about the future of warfare as well as the digital vulnerability of society. This seminar will discuss these trends and concerns as analysed in Max Smeets’s book, ‘No Shortcuts: Why States Struggle to Develop a Military Cyber-Force’ (Oxford University Press and Hurst Publishers, 2022).

The book provides a level-headed view of where we are in the militarization of cyberspace. It bridges the divide between technology and policy to assess the necessary building blocks for states to develop a military cyber capacity. Smeets argues that for many states, the barriers to entry into conflict in cyberspace are currently too high. Smeets draws from a wide range of empirical examples to show why governments’ ability to develop military cyber capabilities might change over time and he explains the limits of capability transfer by states and private actors.