Good news. In the event Serbia elects another Slobodan Milošević, also disliked by the international community, rest assured Belgrade will not be bombed, cluster bombs will not be dropped on Niš, the Chinese Embassy in New Belgrade and Radio Television Serbia in old Belgrade will be safe and old Borka Vučić will not have to protect the Gazela Bridge.
No, what will happen is that NATO will just shut Serbia down, put it out of business.
There is no point in flying F-16’s, Mirage 2000’s or Tornados to drop bombs and fire smart missiles on strategic military targets with possible loss of planes and pilots. The wars in Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan have proven that it is more cost effective to just to send in the drones, those silent hovering assassins.
But that will not happen. There is an even more effective mode of waging war: cyberweapons. They are cheap, effective with little chance of civilian collateral damage.
This Monday, The New York Times [“Broad Powers Seen for Obama in Cyberstrikes”, February 4, 2003, Page 1] reported that that “[a] secret legal review on the use of America’s growing arsenal of cyberweapons has concluded that President Obama has the broad power to order a pre-emptive strike…” Rather than relying on my interpretation of David Sanger and Thom Shanker’s article read it at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/
Cyberweapons are here to stay and are fast overtaking unmanned drones as the weapons of choice in what passes as modern 21st Century wars.
But back to a future hypothetical Serbia: why bomb when Serbia, along with the rest of the world, has joined the computer internet world? As I said, all you have to do to bring Serbia to its knees is to shut Serbia down, put it out of business.
Shut down Serbia’s internal domestic financial computers and you have brought commerce to a standstill. Close its international financial links to Visa and MasterCard and foreign banking and you have brought Serbia back to a barter economy. Disrupt and destroy the computer controlled electrical system and Serbia is thrown into darkness with traffic lights, refrigerators, elevators and all other electrical devices rendered inoperable. Do likewise with natural gas and oil pipelines.
Block satellite access and all of those cell phones, BlackBerrys and I Pads are just hunks of plastic and computer chips that do not work. Your hospitals with their computers will lack access to servers and your airports and trains will not operate, even for domestic flights and commuter traffic. If you thought the Yugoslav economic sanctions of the 90’s were harsh just wait for the new cyberwars.
“The attacks on Iran [limited to nuclear facilities] illustrated that a nation’s infrastructure can be destroyed without bombing it or sending in saboteurs” The Times concludes.
International law has always recognized defense of one’s country to be a legitimate exercise of force. The question that remains is “what constitutes reasonable and proportionate force”? Is that question to be answered unilaterally with major powers arbitrarily setting rules and standards on a case by case basis as they see fit or is there to be a universally agreed upon set of rules governing cyberwars?
I repeat, should the world fail to invoke a worldwide cyber wars moratorium or, in the alternative, put in place rules governing the use of cyberweapons, it will replay the Cold War and pay the price for its stupidity and short sightedness and, yet again, court disaster.
Deyan Ranko Brashich, an attorney, Op-Ed columnist, resides in New York City. His contact and blog “Contrary Views” is at www.deyanbrashich.com