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Double standards incur many costs

June 27, 2011

Today’s Financial Times carries an article on a topic that has been bothering me – the apparent double standards that the United States has towards cyber-crime. Essentially, if others do it, it is an act of war; if the US does it, it is OK.

To quote the article: “The hacking of the International Monetary Fund, Central Intelligence Agency and Citibank computer systems has raised fears that the US is on the brink of a cyberwar for which it is woefully unprepared. To deal with this growing threat, the Obama administration’s strategy is to treat destructive state-sponsored cyberattacks as an act of war that may even result in a conventional military response. This approach unfortunately has an unsustainable double standard: while Barack Obama’s strategy treats cyber­destruction by someone else as an act of war, his administration’s actions imply that cyber-destruction by America is a normal covert action, equivalent to espionage.”

The point here appears to be that those in a position of power somehow equate that power to moral superiority – the old adage ‘might is right’. But of course others do not agree – so such an approach causes contention and also results in levels of secrecy and a feeling that doing dishonest things can be justified.

These same double standards frequently apply in the world of contracting and negotiation. Every day, powerful businesses impose thier view of ‘fairness’ onto the weaker party. It may well be that their intentions are honorable and that they generally do ‘the right thing’. But in the end, their reasoning is also because they want to be the ones who stay in power. And ultimately, it is this approach that contributes to their downfall.

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