In this report, we explore the emergence of a host of
“non-linear” stratagems aimed at exploiting pre-existing
structural vulnerabilities in the liberal world order
whilst reducing the likelihood of reprisal or retaliation.
Following the end of the Cold War, it was hoped that
a more peaceable liberal world order would emerge
under the benevolent rulership of American unipolarity.
The liberal order sought to gradually transform acts
of self-interested transactional cooperation into more
enduring loyalties. Non-linear stratagems are simply a
variation of this theme, albeit without the anticipated
positive externalities. Operating on similar lines to realist
international theory, such ploys seek to further the
dual objectives of self-interest and state survival in an
anarchic global system. This report provides a general
theoretical examination of such emerging stratagems,
using recent Iranian cyber activities to support the arguments
made. To that end, we offer a deeper analysis
of the findings partially presented in our recent ARTICLE
19 studies on Iran’s National Internet (published in
2016) as well as a forthcoming publication on Soft War
and the Iranian Cyber Army.