International Systems, Polarity, Cybertechnology, and Stability

Felix Willem Huesken

Stability in the international system is the key to security. This paper will discuss the four possible distributions of power – multipolarity, bipolarity, unipolarity, nonpolarity, - and explain why the stability that each distribution provides is decreasing in the order given. Bipolarity was more stable than multipolarity. However, cybertechnology may destabilize a bipolar order. Cybertechnology influences stability in various ways. In a cyber-based environment, advantages lie with the attacker: stealth, anonymity and unpredictability, and this poses incentives to strike preemptively. Cyberwarfare is also economically cheap; all that may be needed are talented hackers, intelligence on target, and viable computer and network connections. Hence it is also an easy way to amass credible force and wield power. The virus Stuxnet showed that simply cutting an internet connection or establishing computer systems that are not connected to any others in a local area network does not prevent assets from being assailed. False-flag operations to trick a third state into attacking one’s enemy are frighteningly easy. Thus, it is argued herein that multipolarity is the only scenario in which cybertechnology might mitigate forces leading to instability.


Keywords: International systems, stability, cybertechnology, multipolarity, cyberwarfare, deterrence