Throwing a rock from a glass house: Strategic considerations on the adaption of an offensive cyber strategy by the Dutch Cyber Command

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With deterrence and attribution, the Dutch government aims to counter interference through cyberspace under the threshold of armed attack. The main question that arises is: does this strategy work? To provide an argument the Dutch cyber strategy was compared to the United States Cyber Commands’ strategy of Persistent Engagement as both show similarities. Through theories of attribution, deterrence, and (the risk of) escalation, the potential effectiveness of Persistent Engagement was assessed. This effectiveness is used to consider implications for adopting and implementing a more ‘Persistent Engagement-like’ offensively minded cyber strategy. I argue that the adoption of a more offensive cyber strategy as described in the Defensie Cyber Strategy 2018 is unfeasible and undesirable for the (geo)political position of the Netherlands as it would require – besides notable legal, organizational, and budgetary changes – a change in mindset from a reactive approach focused on international relations and political and economic stability that the country follows today, towards more offensively, proactive, and military-focused measures. The Netherlands must come up with a whole-of-government approach tailored to its unique situation on the world stage to counter interference under the threshold of armed conflict successfully. Until that time, they suffer what they must.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen