President Biden’s feckless response to this action promises to invite more potentially deadly attacks. This is Joe Biden’s first major foreign policy test and he is failing miserably.
In the summer of 2018, I attended the National Security Seminar at the United States Army War College. To my surprise at the time, I learned that the number one threat to America according to the Department of Defense was a foreign cyberattack.
This week a Russian hacking group called DarkSide launched such an attack targeting the Colonial pipeline that powers much of the east coast. President Biden’s feckless response to this action promises to invite more potentially deadly attacks.
What was the response from the administration? Shockingly it was to assert that because the Colonial pipeline is a private entity, paying them ransom to stop the attack was the private company’s decision. This utter abdication by Joe Biden of his duty to protect America is shocking and shameful.
What was explained to me at the War College by top military experts was that part of what makes cyber threats so dangerous is that no rules of engagement have been set in regard to them. Put simply, we have no idea at what point a cyber attack would trigger a conventional military response.
Given this, bad foreign actors are pushing the boundaries to see how far the United States will let them go, Joe Biden has a sent clear message that they can cripple our country with little response.
The military has a name for the worst-case scenario involving a cyber attack. It is called a “cyber Pearl Harbor.” This is not hyperbole. In order to model the potential damage of an attack shutting down American power grids, the military uses the effects of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. That storm killed over 3,000 people and devastated the island. The Colonial pipeline attack shows how easy a cyber Pearl Harbor would be to pull off.
The Biden administration suggests that private firms should beef up their cybersecurity and that the United States is improving its own cyber capabilities. These are meaningless platitudes. Capability cannot stop cyber attacks, only deterrence can. In part this is because when a cyber capability is employed it is immediately reverse engineered by the enemy. Essentially, if you shoot a cyber bullet at your enemy you are giving them that bullet to use themselves.
Make no mistake, the United States has the massive cyber capability, Donald Trump employed some of it in a cyberattack on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in June of 2019. That was a strong action by a strong president who didn’t ask the permission of France and the United Nations to protect his own nation. But it was also a message if you hit us we will hit back, twice as hard.
By contrast, Joe Biden has sent the weakest possible message to our foes regarding cyber warfare. He has shrugged his shoulders at the idea of actually paying DarkSide, which operates either with approval of Putin’s Russia or with its acquiescence. This is worse than Chamberlain appeasing the Nazis; it’s more like Chamberlain paying the Nazis.
Much of the appeal of Joe Biden to his voters was that he was steady, predictable; you could be fairly sure how he would react to a crisis: by the book, not making waves. Donald Trump by comparison was a loose cannon in foreign affairs. His domestic detractors worried he would drop a nuclear bomb. But so did our enemies. Now under Sleepy Joe, it is an open game on America. Nefarious groups and governments have learned they can attack our digital systems for fun and profit.
This is Joe Biden’s first major foreign policy test and he is failing miserably. As potential gas shortagesloom from the attack on the pipeline Biden’s unbecoming weakness is inviting more of the same. A strong response to this attack is needed, one that will deter future actions. Joe Biden is proving he is not up to that task.
Today’s Cold War engaged against Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and others is not about nuclear bombs, it’s about cyber attacks. There is no mutually assured destruction to stay in the hand of the bad guys. This is a gradual fight in which our enemies will push further and further until we respond with force. Joe Biden has shown absolutely no fortitude, no strength, and as a result, we should expect further and more devastating attacks in the future.
The Department of Defense does not speak lightly when it calls cyber attacks the greatest threat facing America, but Joe Biden doesn’t seem to care. The American people will pay the price for his cowardice, and we will pay it sooner rather than later.