In Churchill’s “The Second World War” the reader has the interesting experience of knowing that Churchill could not reveal the code-breaking operation known as “Ultra.” In discussing the “Battle of the Atlantic” attributes allied success to the technological advances, superior organization, and fighting prowess of the Royal Navy. While this is undoubtedly true it is not the entire truth. We now know that at critical junctures, when the codebreakers were able to rapidly decrypt the German messages, success in sinking U-boats and getting convoys to Britain unharmed increased dramatically.
Cyber-war and espionage takes place largely in the dark. Absent theatrical indictments and the spotty information provided from the Snowden NSA leaks, the success of attacks and counterattacks is obscured. What is undeniable is that an enormous transfer of intellectual property has taken place from the United States to China. Other issues may grab headlines but this is a truly dangerous threat, one that has the power to undermine the United States’ economic and military dominance. There seems to be a response from the United States government to this cyber-theft but it certainly has not deterred, or even slowed, the foreign assault on intellectual property in this country. The lack of visible response undermines faith in the will and strength of the United States government. Now, this is not in the same style of direct, total, existential struggle that Britain was engaged in during the Second World War but it is certainly a conflict which involves the modern lifeblood of 21st Century nations: information. I hope that there are coordinated responses, both diplomatically and in aggressive cyber counterattacks, so that today’s record of events is omitting a battle-changing secret that will be revealed long after the world is aware of the winners and losers.