Pushing the Limits: Use of force and Counterterrorism Policies under International Law

The challenges to contemporary U.S. national security do not easily fit within the established international norms governing the use of force, which were largely developed to address conventional, inter-State conflicts. New types of actors and new forms of technology have led the United States and other countries to use military force in innovative, and some would say legally questionable or even unlawful, ways. Critics contend that the United States and its allies have tested the limits of the international legal order in their long-running effort to combat terrorists, militias and other non-state and state-sponsored actors in the Middle East and beyond. At the same time, the proliferation of nuclear and chemical weapons, and the resurgence of geopolitical rivalries with Russia and China continue to, and perhaps increasingly, stress existing frameworks. Should the existing rules change and if so in what ways and how? The panel will focus on the use of drones, targeted killings (such as that of Qasem Soleimani), cyber weapons, forms of surveillance, and remote warfare (including the "unwilling or unable" doctrine). How do the presidential candidates approach the limits placed by international law on the use of force? How do the candidates differ from each other and from previous administrations?

  • Monica Hakimi (moderator), University of Michigan Law School
  • Oona A. Hathaway, Yale Law School
  • Thomas H. Lee, Fordham University School of Law

(Speaker affiliations were current at the time of airing.)