Even Republics Must Sometimes Strike Back


Advocates for a literal view of the UN Charter hold that armed force can only be deployed with approval of the Security Council or in self-defense against an “armed attack.” They then tend to think that, in the latter case, force can only be deployed against the attackers. While it may seem logical, this approach is at odds with traditional understandings of what international law permits. It is at odds with more recent practice of states. And it is at odds with reasonable policy concerns, such as deterring future attacks and responding to limited, but repeated attacks. A more robust approach to self-defense can embrace a range of retaliatory measures without thereby disdaining humanitarian restraint.