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

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