"Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." - George Washington
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Not Fighting Back
By Ralph Peters
New York Post
February 21, 2013
This week, a cutting-edge security firm in Virginia, Mandiant, reported that it had traced major cyber-attacks on 140 US and other Western targets back not merely to China but to a specific Shanghai high-rise belonging to Chinese military intelligence.
Mandiant did splendid detective work at the unclassified level. But the situation’s even worse. Exasperated government workers tell me we should beterrified at what the Chinese already have done to us.
The Chinese government has hack-attacked our military, other branches of government, the defense industry, our energy infrastructure, telecommunications, hi-tech research and basic manufacturing.
According to the US International Trade Commission, Chinese intellectual property theft cost the United States $48 billion in 2009, as well as taking away 2 million jobs. Since then, the amount of theft has worsened, so the total loss is likely around $300 billion. But US companies, afraid that making their losses public will shake consumer confidence, won’t go public with their outrage.
Our military and intelligence services know the situation has gone beyond the Chinese preparing for cyber-war: Beijing’s already waging war against us.
It’s not that we can’t fight back. We have stunning, close-held capabilities to respond with punishing cyber-strikes of our own. We have the intelligence. We have the targets.
But the order never comes.
We’re bleeding money, government secrets, technology secrets, corporate strategies — and seem to have suffered trial attacks on our critical infrastructure. Why won’t the Obama administration doanything to retaliate against Chinese cyber-assaults?
Playing defense doesn’t cut it. The Chinese won’t throttle back until they feel pain. Serious pain.
There are four possible reasons for President Obama’s inaction — only one of them faintly valid:
Our own businessmen put profit over patriotism. The minority of US-based corporations that make money in (or off of) China form an influential lobby in Washington. It was bad enough when outsourcing dumped hardworking Americans out on the street, but arguing that we shouldn’t respond to Chinese attacks is greed bordering treason.
Imaginary legal concerns paralyze this administration. If Obama had been president on Dec. 7, 1941, he’d have spent all of 1942 having government lawyers research whether sinking our Pacific fleet in a surprise attack was an act of war. We areunder attack. Every day, around the clock. And our president seems afraid that Chinese spies are going to sue us.
Team Obama just has other priorities: If the administration had a theme song, it’d be the old country number, “Make the World Go Away.” Obama came to office with no serious interest in foreign policy, but a highly charged domestic agenda. And foreign policy has bewildered, befuddled and bloodied his presidency, as it’s done to Democrats since the Vietnam War. He just wants foreign problems to disappear.
We fear a massive cyber-attack. This is the only remotely valid reason for responding carefully, but inaction merely worsens the prospect of disasters to come. And the administration is doing precious little to improve our defenses in the meantime.
The more complex a socio-economic system becomes, the more vulnerable it is to any kind of attack. Our vast infrastructure offers countless target nodes, while our centralized systems for distributing everything from energy to foodstuffs rely on national networks and long-distance supply chains. An African village wouldn’t suffer much from a cyber-attack; a Chinese town would feel it, but not severely. An American city would shut down.
Which means you can’t play tit-for-tat and let the Chinese continue to escalate. You have to hit their military and intelligence computer networks with shocking force — demonstrating what we could do to their showcase cities, if they don’t behave.
They have to be punished for their massive theft of our secrets and intellectual capital — as well as for the direct damage they do.
If you don’t stand up to the bully, the bully keeps taking your lunch money.
As for the nonsense that we can’t retaliate because Beijing holds so much US debt, that situation makes China our prisoner, not the other way around. The Chinese economy is far more fragile than the leadership in Beijing lets on.
In the time you spent reading this column, the Chinese launched multiple attacks upon our country. Your president, whose fundamental mission is to protect the United States, did nothing.
Ralph Peters is a retired Army officer and former enlisted man.