War 2.0: Drones, Distance and Death

War 2.0: Drones, Distance and Death

Jai Galliott (The University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/IJT.2016070104
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Abstract

Technology has always allowed agents of war to separate themselves from the harm that they or their armed forces inflict, with spears, bows and arrows, trebuchets, cannons, firearms and other modern weaponry, all serving as examples of technologies that have increased the distance between belligerents and supposedly made warfare less sickening than the close-quarters combat of the past. However, this paper calls into question the extent to which new military technologies actually mitigate the savagery of war. It contends that with the introduction of technologies that eliminate the need for a human presence on the battlefield, we are the cusp of a major revolution in warfare that presents new challenges and questions for military technoethics, namely as to how soldiers should conduct themselves and fight justly, if they are to do so at all. Ultimately, it argues that only way to address these issues is through the design of the mediating technologies themselves, which is by no means an easy task.
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The Role Of The Individual Soldier

While many of the campaigns to halt the development of ‘killer robots’ focus on high-level decision makers, as they are central to the initial decision to develop said systems and engage them in warfare, it is the individual soldier who defends his state and society that must be most unconditional in exercising moral restraint and adhering to just war theory. Michael Ignatieff (1998) writes that more than any other of warmaking agential group, it is the soldiers who actually conduct war that have the most influence on its outcomes and the ability to introduce the moral component. In his words, ‘the decisive restraint on inhuman practice on the battlefield lies within the warrior himself – in his conception of what is honourable or dishonourable for a man to do with weapons’ (Ignatieff, 1998, p. 118). Ironically, soldiers are the primary agents of both physical violence and compassion and moral arbitration in war. As Darren Bowyer (1998) remarks, they deliver ‘death and destruction one moment ... [and deal] out succour to the wounded (of both sides) and assistance to the unwittingly involved civilian population, the next’ (p. 276). The specific concern examined here is whether by removing soldiers from the battlefield and training them to fight via a technologically mediated proxy we may, through a process of psycho-moral disengagement and emotional desensitisation, lower their ability or willingness to exercise restraint and compassion in warfare and adhere to the moral laws of war, namely the principles of discrimination and proportionality enshrined within just war theory, which respectively require that war be directly only at legitimate targets and and involve a morally appropriate level of force. It will be argued that the employment of unmanned systems tracks unethical decision-making and/or lowers barriers to killing, endangering the moral conduct of warfare and countering much of the benefit of using these systems.

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