Super Soldiers (Part 2): The Ethical, Legal, and Operational Implications

Super Soldiers (Part 2): The Ethical, Legal, and Operational Implications

Patrick Lin, Max Mehlman, Keith Abney, Shannon French, Shannon Vallor, Jai Galliott, Michael Burnam-Fink, Alexander R. LaCroix, Seth Schuknecht
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6010-6.ch008
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This is the second chapter of two on military human enhancement. In the first chapter, the authors outlined past and present efforts aimed at enhancing the minds and bodies of our warfighters with the broader goal of creating the “super soldiers” of tomorrow, all before exploring a number of distinctions—natural vs. artificial, external vs. internal, enhancement vs. therapy, enhancement vs. disenhancement, and enhancement vs. engineering—that are critical to the definition of military human enhancement and understanding the problems it poses. The chapter then advanced a working definition of enhancement as efforts that aim to “improve performance, appearance, or capability besides what is necessary to achieve, sustain, or restore health.” It then discussed a number of variables that must be taken into consideration when applying this definition in a military context. In this second chapter, drawing on that definition and some of the controversies already mentioned, the authors set out the relevant ethical, legal, and operational challenges posed by military enhancement. They begin by considering some of the implications for international humanitarian law and then shift to US domestic law. Following that, the authors examine military human enhancement from a virtue ethics approach, and finally outline some potential consequences for military operations more generally.
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International Law

What are the provisions in international law that may bear upon military human enhancements? Should enhancement technologies, which typically do not directly interact with anyone other than the human subject, nevertheless be subjected to a weapons legal review? That is, is there a sense in which enhancements could be considered as “weapons” and therefore subject to legal instruments such as the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention? How do norms related to human-subject research and medical ethics impact military enhancements?

These are some of the most important questions for military enhancements as they relate to international law (Lin, 2012a). Conceptually, we divide international law into two categories: the first is commonly known as the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) and the second is composed of international agreements related to biomedical research. Because these are well-known conventions, we will only list them here and add more detail later as needed.

Under international humanitarian law (IHL), the main instruments of interest here are:

  • Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907).

  • Geneva Conventions (1949 and Additional Protocols I, II, and III).

  • Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (1972).

  • Chemical Weapons Convention (1993).

  • Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (1998).

Under international biomedical laws—which we discuss more in the next section—the main instruments of interest here are:

  • Nuremberg Code (1947).

  • Declaration of Geneva (1948).

  • Declaration of Helsinki (1964).

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