An Idea You May Have Never Heard of: Lawfare and more with Jill Goldenziel
September 21, 2023
Jill Goldenziel advises global leaders on law, leadership, international security, and human rights. She has presented her groundbreaking research at the United Nations and the Pentagon, at TEDx, and for audiences around the world. She is a columnist on Defense and National Security.Dr. Goldenziel speaks and consults on International and Constitutional Law, International Security, Geopolitical Risk, Leadership, Business and Human Rights, Migration, and Disinformation

She has briefed United Nations officials, world parliamentarians, and senior military leaders on her award-winning research in these areas, including speaking alongside Angela Merkel and other world leaders before 164 UN Member-States at the Intergovernmental Conference to adopt the Global Compact for Migration.

As a professor at the National Defense University and previously at Marine Corps University, Dr. Goldenziel has lectured more than 1,400 U.S. and foreign field-grade military officers and senior civilian leaders on international law and international security. She is also an Affiliated Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania’s Fox Leadership International program, where she lectures on leadership.

Dr. Goldenziel’s award-winning work has appeared in top scholarly journals, and she is regularly quoted and cited in the popular press. Dr. Goldenziel holds a Ph.D. and A.M. in Government from Harvard, a J.D. from NYU Law, and an A.B. from Princeton. Learn more at and follow her @JillGoldenziel.

The views expressed here are Dr. Goldenziel's own and do not necessarily represent those of the National Defense University, the U.S. Department of Defense, or any other arm of the U.S. Government.

Many of our readers are corporate or startup founders, what can you tell us about your career?

I teach and advise business, government, and military leaders on law, leadership, security, and strategy. As a Professor at the National Defense University-College of Information and Cyberspace, I teach law and strategy to senior military and civilian leaders from the U.S. and partner and allied nations. As a speaker and consultant, I leverage my security expertise to help businesses manage legal and security risks. I help companies understand and solve complex legal and security problems, manage threats, and build resilience. My expertise on international and constitutional law, information and cyber warfare, threats from a rising China, political risk, business and human rights, migration, and climate change helps my clients identify business vulnerabilities and opportunities. As customers increasingly demand that businesses lead on social issues, I also coach executives to develop and publish thought leadership.

How have you grown your career over the past few decades?

Fearlessly. I had no military experience when a job opening at Marine Corps University was advertised over the listserv at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, where I was a fellow. But one of my closest friends in graduate school was a Marine. We had many long conversations at school and while traveling together about what the Corps meant to him and the importance of the nation-building work he had done while deployed. I always wanted to do policy-relevant academic work, which I thought I would do through my research (and I have)! I saw working with the Marine Corps as an opportunity to do it in my teaching every single day. So in 2016, the Marine Corps hired a human rights lawyer to teach the Law of War, and I jumped into a new world. I built relationships inside and outside the military and used the language and cultural skills I’d learned from my fieldwork to translate between the military and civilian worlds, and to translate what I’ve learned about leadership and risk into my consulting work as well.

What roles does yearly-planning play in your career growth?

I set goals at the beginning of each academic year and review them regularly to make sure I’m on track. I especially try to make sure my calendar is aligned with those goals when I plan it each week.

You’ve had a bit of buzz in the past few years about your writing around lawfare. What is it and why should we care?

Lawfare is the use of law as a weapon of war–to achieve a particularly strategic, operational, or tactical objective against an adversary. Use of lawfare by state and non-state actors is escalating all over the world, especially as countries seek to undermine each other’s legitimacy in the media. Ukraine has launched a lawfare strategy against Russia designed to push the international community to outcast Putin and condemn the war, add monetary costs to the war through international arbitration, and eventually bring war criminals to justice. Lawfare is a huge part of strategic competition between the US and Russia, and the US and China. Russia seeks to undermine our freedom of information and freedom of privacy by targeting US persons with disinformation, knowing that the US government cannot target those same people to stop them. China is using legal arguments to justify claiming areas of the South China Sea that belong to other countries. Some, like the Philippines, have gone to court to stop them. Lawfare will be a major factor in any future wars. Law signifies legitimacy; law at its best signifies morality. Our troops are able to fight because they believe what they do is moral and just. The will to fight should not be underestimated. Attacking legitimacy undermines that will.

How should we think about lawfare as part of being educated citizens?

Educated citizens understand “information warfare” now in a way they wouldn’t have a decade ago. I’m hoping they will also understand that lawfare, or legal warfare, is also a kind of conflict between states–and that the narratives they use can make all the difference to win in this domain.

What should we be watching and paying attention to this week, this month, this coming year?

Let’s not get fatigued as the war in Ukraine continues to drag on. The horrors haven’t ended. We need to keep providing aid to Ukrainians who are fleeing the conflict, making sure war criminals are brought to justice, and keeping it top of mind for our politicians.

Businesses need to keep acting too. Businesses will continue to face pressure to take a stand on social issues, especially given the role of corporations in the war in Ukraine. Businesses pulled out of Russia in astounding numbers, in rapid succession. And Elon Musk’s provision of Starlink to Ukraine changed the course of the war. Businesses in the US have faced pressure to take a stand on everything from voting to abortion rights. We’re going to continue to see corporations taking bold actions in domestic and international politics–and those that fail to act or lead poorly will face costs.

Keep an eye on China and tech. I think we’re going to see increasing scrutiny on China’s access to US tech, and on apps like TikTok.

The US Coast Guard says that Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported Fishing (IUU Fishing) is the greatest global maritime security threat. Nothing less than the world’s food supply is at risk. If that weren’t enough, the environmental consequences cannot be overstated. Every citizen of the globe has a stake in this issue, and there’s a lot individuals can do.

Finally, the holidays are a tough time for a lot of people. Many people feel alone amidst all of the celebrations. Families are complicated. Many people feel the loss of those who aren’t there. And this year is tough for a lot of people because costs have gotten so high. Reach out to your friends and family members and co-workers and make sure they’re OK. Keep an eye out for the veterans in your lives too.

What women are on your radar?

My students are on my radar. I have the honor and privilege of teaching and leading some of America’s finest women – Lieutenant Colonels and Colonels who are rising stars in the U.S. Military. How I can teach them everything I know and do my best for them every day is literally what keeps me up at night.

What are you currently obsessed with OR one thing you highly recommend?

I am always obsessed with physical fitness, especially running. I can’t stress enough how critical it is for health and well-being, for maintaining a high level of energy, keeping focus, and being a better and more balanced person.

Which work tools/courses/apps have made your life easier?

I use Buffer to streamline my social posts, Boomerang to pause my inbox, and Timework to block my social media so I can focus



/*video overlay play button*/