This workshop-style conference is the second in a two-part series addressing the legal and moral complexities of what is commonly referred to as “Grey Zone Conflict.” The first conference was held in Charlottesville, Virginia and hosted by The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School (TJALCS.)

The  United States Special Operations Command defines this zone as “a conceptual space between peace and war, occurring when actors purposefully use single or multiple elements of power to achieve political-security objectives with activities that are typically ambiguous or cloud attribution and exceed the threshold of ordinary competition, yet intentionally fall below the level of large-scale direct military conflict.”

While such forms of competition have always occurred, advances in communications and information technology amplify their potential effect, and make possible the simultaneous use of multiple tactics in coordinated campaigns.  Such campaigns may result in sudden acquisition of advantage, or they may be gradual and long-term, seeking incremental changes to avoid provocation whose cumulative effect may be to change balances of power.

These operations pose particular challenges because they typically fall between legally accepted forms of competition and legally prohibited armed attacks.  The resulting ambiguity creates instability in the international arena because states are uncertain about behavior that will be considered acceptable and responses that will be regarded as justified.  The absence of clear legal guidance reflects a deeper failure to determine ethical norms that should govern activity in the grey zone. 

This workshop brings together thinkers from various disciplines to map the terrain characterized by hybrid threats in the grey zone. This will involve discussion of the specific types of threats and the issues that they raise, how these threats may be connected to one another, the responses that may be effective in response to them, and the potential for legal and ethical principles to provide greater clarity and structure about what is and is not acceptable behavior.   

This conference is by invitation only and closed to the public.