A century ago, the declaration of war was a formal exercise. Diplomats in frock coats would turn up at chancellories to first serve ultimatums and subsequently to hand-deliver notices of war. Some would even insist on reading them out aloud for the benefit of bemused recipients, who would then make arrangements for the safe departure of the enemy’s embassy. These age-old courtesies were abridged by the time of World War II and terse telegrams replaced frock coats. The advent of the Cold War, nuclear weapons and proxy wars of the 20th century put an end to the custom of formal war declarations. In recent times, an incoming missile or fighter aircraft announces war. Even so, we are used to wars that have a starting point and an end date.
Not anymore. Information warfare is an ongoing affair. Cyber warfare, its technical aspect, has already been militarized. It is global and continues regardless of whether or not states are in armed conflict. We cannot pinpoint the date, month or even the year it started. And, unfortunately, we also cannot say when it will end, if ever. States have no choice but to wage it. Gloomy as this sounds, at least so far the pursuit of politics through these other means has avoided large scale bloodshed that characterized armed conflicts of the Industrial Age.