Information Warfare and International Law on the Use of Force

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Full Title of Reference

Information Warfare and International Law on the Use of Force

Full Citation

Jason Barkham, Information Warfare and International Law on the Use of Force, 34 N.Y.U. J. Int'l L. & Pol. 57 (2001). Web Alt Web



Key Words

Intelligence/Information Infrastructures, International Humanitarian Law, Lawfare, Laws of War, Virtual Military Technologies, Virtual Warfare, Combatant Status, Civilian Participation, Hacker, National Security


This paper will examine how Information Warfare (IW) works, problems it may create for international law on the use of force, and some of the difficulties involved in possible solutions. Part II will discuss the definition of IW and the various tools that are likely to be used in IW, and will look at some applications of IW. Part III will review the key elements of international law on the use of force. Part IV will examine the effects of IW on traditional use of force analysis and analyze some of the problems that IW will create for the distinction between force and coercion. Part V will discuss the alternative of setting up a treaty regime to regulate IW and will look at some of the obstacles that such a treaty would have to overcome. Part VI will offer some conclusions.

  • Terminology:

The term “Information Warfare” has been used to describe the current Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), where the ability to acquire and transmit information quickly is transforming warfare tactics by creating perfect information for commanders, providing them with complete and accurate information instantaneously available across the theater of war. The goal of the information RMA is to produce “information dominance,” whereby one country’s forces would be able to see the three-dimensional battlespace so much more accurately than its enemies that it would be able to take decisive action while the enemy is still evaluating the situation during the “decision cycle.”10 These capabilities would fundamentally change combat. Although information always has been essential in combat, the increasing reliance on transmitted digital information would give the side with the ability to deny the other access to information a major advantage in the encounter.

Additional Notes and Highlights

Expertise Required: Law - Moderate