peace and security.201 Uses of force that endanger that international stability fall within Article 2(4)’s scope.202 Threats of force, or economic coercion, do not fall under the gambit of Article 2(4) protection. Since cyber attacks are not a classic armed attack, the only way that a CNA could activate Article 2(4) is if such an attack rose to the level of an armed attack, i.e., analogous to an attack by traditional military forces.
A valid exercise of self-defense would require irrefutable proof of aggression to satisfy state responsibility and to justify any sort of retaliation.203 Forcible retaliation as retribution is not permitted under international law. The notion of preemptive or anticipatory self-defense permits a state to defend itself in the event of imminent danger or an actual threat of armed attack. The legal caveat is that the threat must be real and credible and create an imminent need to act in accordance with the Caroline doctrine.204 No strict prohibition precludes a government using cyber-force preemptively as long as the perceived threat is demonstrated to be real and immediate, and the criteria of proportionality and necessity are adhered to in the application of computer-generated coercion.205 Whether the international community would accept such a use of force depends entirely on context.206 If a state were faced with a CNA that does not occur in conjunction with, or as a prelude to, conventional military force, the state may only
202 This is true given the “other manner” language in Article 2(4) which extends coverage to virtually all cases of uses of force not explicitly covered in the Charter. Id.
203 Joyner, supra note 15.
204 Letter from Daniel Webster to Lord Ashburton (Aug. 6, 1842), reprinted in 2 John Moore Digest of International Law 411-12 (1906). The Caroline incident involved a Canadian insurrection in 1837. After being defeated, the insurgents retreated into the United States where they recruited and planned further operations. The Caroline, a naval vessel, was being used by the rebels. British troops crossed the border and destroyed the vessel. Britain justified the action on the grounds that the United States was not enforcing its laws along the frontier and that the action was a legitimate exercise of self-defense. Id. at 409-11.
205 Joyner, supra note 15.
206 Schmitt, supra note 165.