Wars of Disruption and Resilience
Cybered Conflict, Power, and National Security

Chris C. Demchak

A new form of conflict for an intensely cybered age and its challenges to our national security


"Wars of Disruption and Resilience is an important contribution to the cyber field, with both theoretical and policy implications. It will begin the debate on an issue important to the national security field."
—Gale Mattox, U.S. Naval Academy

"Demchak's analysis is novel and innovative. It takes the study of problems posed by the vulnerabilities inherent in our increasingly cybered world in a new direction. The book will be essential reading for any academic engaged in the issue of cyber conflict and for any civilian and government officials involved in managing this very modern security problem."
—Terry Terriff, coeditor of Global Insurgency and the Future of Armed Conflict: Debating Fourth Generation Warfare

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Increasingly, the power of a large, complex, wired nation like the United States rests on its ability to disrupt would-be cyber attacks and to be resil­ient against a successful attack or recurring campaign. Addressing the con­cerns of both theorists and those on the national security front lines, Chris C. Demchak presents a unified strategy for survival in an interconnected, ever-messier, more surprising cybered world and examines the institutional adaptations required of our defense, intelligence, energy, and other critical sectors for national security.

Demchak introduces a strategy of “security resilience” against surprise attacks for a cybered world that is divided between modern, digitally vulner­able city-states and more dysfunctional global regions. Its key concepts build on theories of international relations, complexity in social-technical systems, and organizational-institutional adaptation. Demchak tests the strategy for reasonableness in history’s few examples of states disrupting rather than conquering and being resilient to attacks, including ancient Athens and Sparta, several British colonial wars, and two American limited wars. She applies the strategy to modern political, social, and technical challenges and presents three kinds of institutional adaptation that predicate the success of the security resilience strategy in response. Finally, Demchak discusses implications for the future including new forms of cyber aggression like the Stuxnet worm, the rise of the cyber-command concept, and the competition between the U.S. and China as global cyber leaders.

Wars of Disruption and Resilience offers a blueprint for a national cyber-power strategy that is long in time horizon, flexible in target and scale, and practical enough to maintain the security of a digitized nation facing violent cybered conflict.

Studies in Security and International Affairs

Page count: 304 pp.
1 table, 10 figures
Trim size: 6 x 9


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Chris C. Demchak is an associate professor in the Strategic Research Department at the U.S. Naval War College. She is the author of Military Organizations, Complex Machines: Modernization in the U.S. Armed Services, coauthor of Lessons of the Gulf War: Ascendant Technology and Declining Capability, and coeditor of Designing Resilience: Preparing for Extreme Events. She writes about cybered conflict on the New Atlanticist blog.