Cyber Symposium – The Evolving Face of Cyber Conflict and the Jus ad Bellum: A Futurespective

by | Jul 26, 2022

Cyber symposium - Watts

From 15 through 17 June 2022, the Lieber Institute for Law and Warfare met in Washington, D.C. with the Tech, Law & Security Program at the American University, Washington College of Law to present a symposium entitled The Evolving Face of Cyber Conflict and International Law: A Futurespective. Led by COL (ret.) Professor Gary Corn, the event convened leaders from the academic, government, and private sectors to explore emerging international legal developments related to security and cyberspace. Recent pronouncements by States on the relationship of international law to cyberspace were a frequent focus of discussion. Panels and speakers addressed States’ developing views on subjects including sovereignty, due diligence, non-intervention, countermeasures, and non-Western legal views, among others.

The Lieber Institute was proud to arrange and conduct panels on cyberspace and the jus ad bellum and the jus in bello. In addition to their remarks, the panelists of the former drafted posts for a brief symposium which we will publish in the coming days. The panelists addressed the jus ad bellum in cyberspace from four distinct but interrelated perspectives including diplomacy, national policymaking, academia, and the private sector. The result was a comprehensive and wide-ranging discussion of the future and relevance of the often-fraught international legal system’s collective security system. The panelists’ posts summarize, and in some respects, elaborate on our dialogue at the event.

Ambassador Heli Tiirmaa-Klaar relates observations from her significant experience negotiating jus ad bellum-related matters in UN and other diplomatic meetings. She emphasizes the wide diversity of views that comprise the diplomatic community, particularly concerning the notion of armed attack, noting that legal divergence often impedes collective response options. Meanwhile, Professor Michael N. Schmitt, General Editor of both Tallinn Manual volumes, addresses the evolution of jus ad bellum thresholds including the use of force and armed attack. He identifies emerging consensus among some States on factors that fill out doctrinal meanings but notes other jus ad bellum concepts that currently lack such consensus. Finally, Veronica Glick offers private tech industry considerations on the jus ad bellum from her extensive experience in private law practice and as Deputy Chief Counsel to the U.S. Cyberspace Solarium Commission. She and her co-author David Simon emphasize the importance of public-private partnerships to assess and legally characterize cyber operations that target critical cyber infrastructure owned and operated by the private sector.

Look for their posts in next days for informed and insightful takes on the present and future jus ad bellum as it relates to States’ operations in cyberspace. We at the Lieber Institute and Articles of War are enormously grateful for all the panelists’ reflections and support. And we offer a special thanks to Gary Corn, the Tech, Law & Security Program, as well as our other partners, the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, the Federmann Cyber Security Research Center at Hebrew University, and the Rajaratham School of International Studies at Nanyand Technological University, Singapore.


Sean Watts is a Professor in the Department of Law at the United States Military Academy, Co-Director of the Lieber Institute for Law and Land Warfare at West Point, and Co-Editor-in-Chief of Articles of War.


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