Today, over 100 billion emails will be sent. Over 6 billion text messages will be received. The government is still tracking your metadata. Companies are violating human rights. Congressmen are embroiled in scandals. The world spins onward.
And we’re in the middle of a silent war.
A war that is rarely, if ever, discussed in the papers. It doesn’t get mentioned on the nightly news. It crosses all borders and, yet, you cannot see “it”. It’s the new war of escalation and some are even going so far as to call it the “New Cold War”. What they are referring to are the decisions being made at the highest levels of government to collect data and arm itself with the best and most terrifying technological weapons that have ever existed.
But it’s a misnomer. The new war isn’t cold at all. In fact, in some ways, it is red hot. Reports come in regularly of the U.S. engaging in some new form of cyber attack. Whether from a whistleblower, or from a newspaper. The United States is fighting online, on all fronts.
What is different about this and the prior Cold War are the weapons with which it is fought. The battlefield of the original Cold War was one of braggadocio backed by real threats. Those threats had tangible assets tied to them though. Whether they were long-range cruise missiles, nuclear weapons, or satellites, the objects of the battle were real. The “New Cold War” has no physical assets, and the assets gained and lost are at risk of being but ephemeral.
The comparison to the Cold War is effective though. It can be corralled to serve a good purpose. A lesson learned from the Cold War and one that many in government would do well to heed at this time is that at the end of the last Cold War both sides were left to sort out the mess. This has resulted in a multi-decade effort across the same nations engaged in the original escalation effort to disarm and dismantle the weapons and infrastructure built during its hype – when the Cold War was hot.
The arms nations are equipping themselves with today respond to perceived vulnerability. It is true, there are vulnerabilities that a nation cannot leave exposed and to which it must respond, but there does a come a point where the weapons being developed are, in fact, more dangerous than the vulnerability. It’s at that point that wise leaders and cooler heads need to prevail.