Norm Wars: The Evolution of Norms for Emerging-Technology Weapons, from Chemical Weapons to Cyber Warfare




Mazanec, Brian M.

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This study seeks to explain how constraining norms for cyber warfare—along with other emerging-technology weapons—are developing and will develop in the future. To do so, it develops a theory based on case studies on the evolution of norms for other emerging- technology weapons—specifically chemical and biological weapons, strategic bombing, and nuclear weapons. This research expands norm evolution theory, which is not specifically focused on warfare or emerging-technology weapons, and also contributes to nascent efforts to address the emerging cyber threat by developing a better understanding of norm evolution for cyber warfare. Ultimately, this study argues that for emerging- technology weapons direct or indirect alignment of national self-interest with a constraining norm is the primary factor that leads to norm emergence and the extent to which it is aligned with key or powerful states’ perception of self-interest will determine how rapidly and effectively the norm emerges. Specific to cyber warfare, this study argues that while an increasing number of actors and organizational platforms are cultivating multiple candidate norms for cyber warfare, constraining norms will have trouble emerging and may never reach a norm cascade. Of the current candidate cyber norms, the most likely to succeed are those that are more limited in scope, such as those focused on the application of the existing laws of armed conflict to cyber warfare. In light of these findings, this study concludes by offering various recommendations for U.S. policymakers and identifies further research opportunities to continue to develop norm evolution theory for emerging-technology weapons.



Cyber warfare