227.01 Use of Force in International Law: Cyber, Drones, Hostage Rescues, Piracy, and more


This fall-only seminar is designed to introduce students who have limited familiarity with international law to principles involved in the use of force during periods of putative peace.  It will explore, for example, what circumstances constitute an “act of war” in a variety of situations, to include cyberspace.  The structure of classes may vary, and students may be divided into sections, discussion groups, and panels. The course may include guest speakers (in-person or via Zoom).

The course will analyze when and how force may be used in self-defense and will survey topics such as humanitarian intervention, hostage rescue, air defense identification zones, freedom of navigation operations, use of force in the cyber domain, and the legal aspects of international counter-piracy and counterterrorism operations (including drone strikes).  Efforts to limit the use of force in outer space as well as the implications of nuclear weapons and the emergence of autonomous (to include generative AI) weaponry will be explored.

Case studies and current news events will be examined in conjunction with the covered issues.  For example, an article that examines, “through the lens of the Russia-Ukraine conflict…whether and, if so, when a State's military aid or assistance that contributes to another State's use of force constitutes a separate and distinct use of force under international law” will be discussed.

In addition, students will get an overview of the practical issues associated with the use of force, to include the weaponry, planning, and military techniques involved.

There will be no class on Tuesday, September 26.  However, there will be a class on Sunday, November 5th from 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. during which we will watch the movie, Eye-in-the-Sky about a drone strike, and have a discussion about it.

This course obviously addresses the use of force in international law.  Accordingly, class instruction will inevitably include written, oral, and visual depictions of physical force and violence—and occasionally extreme representations of the same.

Fall 2023

Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor
Course Credits
Reflective Writing
Research paper option, 25+ pages
Research and/or analytical paper(s), 20+ pages
Oral presentation
Class participation
Charles J. Dunlap, Jr.
Sakai site: https://sakai.duke.edu/portal/site/LAW-227-01-F23
Email list: LAW-227-01-F23@sakai.duke.edu
Degree Requirements
Course Requirements - JD
Course Requirements - LLM-ICL
Course Requirements - Public Interest
Course Areas of Practice