Episode 8 – Craig Forcese on the History and Significance of the Caroline Incident

In this episode, Craig Forcese, Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa in Canada, speaks about his book Destroying the Caroline: The Frontier Raid that Reshaped the Right to War. We talk about the history of the famous incident and the diplomatic dispute that gave rise to the famous Caroline test, how and why the incident managed to exercise such an outsize influence over the development of the jus ad bellum regime, and what that says about the nature of international law itself. We also discuss how the incident, with the history itself often mischaracterized, is used and abused in current debates around such issues as anticipatory self-defense, imminence, and the unwilling or unable doctrine. We wrap up with a brief discussion of Canadian national security law, and how it differs from that of the U.S. and other allies. It will likely change your understanding of the Caroline Incident, and should make you want to read the book!


Destroying the Caroline: The Frontier Raid that Reshaped the Right to War(2018).

National Security Law: Canadian Practice in International Perspective, 2nd ed. (2020).

Reading Recommendations:

– Tom Ruys, ‘Armed Attack’ and Article 51 of the UN Charter: Evolutions in Customary Law and Practice (2010).

– Tom Ruys et al., The Use of Force in International Law: A Case-Based Approach (2018).

Journal on the Use of Force and International Law .