The Atlantic

How Democracies Lose in Cyberwar

In 2016, Russia used the American system against itself.
Source: Rick Wilking / Reuters

“War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.” This 19th-century quip, often attributed to the satirist Ambrose Bierce, deserves a 21st-century update: “Attacks against the U.S. are God’s way of teaching Americans how weaker enemies are stronger than they seem.”

Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda are the paradigmatic examples of this. On September 11, 2001, they gave Americans, along with the rest of the world, a lesson in “asymmetric warfare”—armed conflict between two sides whose relative military power differs significantly, and in which one party can gain advantage by targeting the other one’s weak points.

In that case, 19 suicidal terrorists armed with box cutters gained control of three commercial jetliners and used them to strike some of the most sensitive and symbolic targets

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic6 min readPsychology
The Three Personalities of America
A few years ago, Jason Rentfrow, a psychologist at the University of Cambridge, dug into a question that has captivated him for decades: Do different places have different personalities? Do people in Los Angeles, for instance, have measurably differe
The Atlantic17 min read
What It Means to Name a Forgotten Murder Victim
Thirteen years ago, a young woman was found dead in small-town Texas. She was nicknamed “Lavender Doe” for the purple shirt she was wearing. Her real identity would remain a mystery until amateur genealogists took up her case.
The Atlantic6 min readPolitics
The Electoral College’s Racist Origins
More than two centuries after it was designed to empower southern white voters, the system continues to do just that.