Yesterday's NYT had a big story about drones being used all over the place by the US. Today's has a story about the cyberwar the US has been engaged in against Iran. I am more focused on the latter today: given that the US has been pushing for NATO to consider a cyber-attack as an act of war that would activate Article V's attack upon one is equal to attack upon all commitment, these attacks upon Iran are pretty, well, war-like.
So, my question is: is this a new war that the US is fighting against Iran? Or is it an on-going war that is being fought by alternative means? Iran has reputedly been supporting terrorism against the US since, well, the revolution. Its support of the taking of hostages at the embassy made that event more of an inter-country thing than a random act by a few students. Iran apparently supported the groups behind terrorist attacks against the US Marines and French in Lebanon in 1983 and then other attacks as far away as Argentine. Perhaps those efforts might be too distant from Iran, but Iran's provision of the most advanced roadside bomb materials for insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan is much more direct and clear.
I am actually less worried about antagonizing Iran since the Iranian actors (elements of the government or the entire enchilada) seem to have no qualms given what they did to assist the insurgents in I/A, and more worried about the computer viruses spilling over and increasing the expertise of the folks who are now seeing the start of the art.
But there is this larger question about what counts as war. The usual dataset question relies on body-counts, but cyberwarfare kills centrifuges and other equipment, not people thus far. Is it a matter of scale, like body counts? That specialized, focused efforts do not cross the threshold, such as attacks on nuclear programs, but a cyber attack that wiped out the electricity production of a swath of a country would?
I am sure scholars of cyber-stuff have asked these questions. This is way outside my expertise, but I am curious. What say you?