Governments Learning From Terrorists?
It appears that governments have learned from non-nation-state groups and are expanding upon techniques pioneered by terrorists and criminals to project power and disrupt rivals with little risk to themselves. This is especially true when compared with earlier techniques.
Previously, if one government wanted to overthrow another, they would typically fund and arm an opposition group and take the country by force. The US took these actions in Iran, Guatemala, Cuba, and Afghanistan while the USSR/Russia were active in Grenada, Angola, Afghanistan (before the US) , Crimea, and China. China is currently active in the South China Sea and India.
I do not intend to judge one country’s actions against another’s. The point is that military, economic, and diplomatic actions were previously nation-states’ only options for projecting power and achieving their goals. They were sometimes attempted covertly but always with the risk of their discovery leading to conflict. This risk provided a disincentive for action since the situation could rapidly escalate from low intensity to high intensity conflict.
For many years a high intensity conflict between superpowers meant nuclear war. The concept of Mutually Assured Destruction ensured that proposals to project power included potential responses by other global players. Nation-states’ bias for offensive action was tempered by their concern for personal safety.
I believe the universality, anonymity, and inherent insecurity of the internet has changed this calculus.