Graduation Year


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


International Relations

Reader 1

Heather Williams

Reader 2

Stephen Marks

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© 2021 Gabrielle AK Ollig


Militaristic approaches including U.S. Cyber Command's "defend forward" and "persistent engagement" are backed up by a large body of literature on cyberspace where states are unitary, cyber operations are weapons, and threats are external entities that require militarized deterrence. However, the SolarWinds intrusion in 2020 had devastating implications for a range of private companies and government agencies alike and ultimately highlights underlying issues with these approaches. This paper provides an alternate account to these unitary, militarized accounts of the U.S. and cyberspace: a retelling of U.S. woes and action in cyberspace over the last three decades that acknowledges the multifarious nature of cyberspace where separate agencies and actors have different, sometimes competing goals, actions often have both domestic and international implications, and as a result, new options for action are also challenging to U.S. security. In order to provide an alternate account, this paper will utilize an intermestic lens to evaluate the fluid nature of cyberspace where actions are not solely domestic or solely international. Ultimately, this retelling demonstrates that cyberspace’s connection to the private sector offers intelligence and covert actors a new capacity to expand their reach while also presenting new threats to these agencies’ ability to protect U.S. interests and values. Despite the latter, U.S. agencies, have failed to adequately address the interaction of their actions with liberal values as well as the structural issue of private sector vulnerabilities. This failure is in large part the result of a general agency-level prioritization of short-term access to information and operational capacity.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.