Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop


Forgot your password?
The Military

Are New Technologies Undermining the Laws of War? 317

Lasrick writes "This is a great read — from the article: 'Today, emerging military technologies — including unmanned aerial vehicles, directed-energy weapons, lethal autonomous robots, and cyber weapons — raise the prospect of upheavals in military practice so fundamental that they challenge assumptions underlying long-established international laws of war, particularly those relating to the primacy of the state and the geographic bounds of warfare. But the laws of war have been developed over a long period, with commentary and input from many cultures. What would seem appropriate in this age of extraordinary technological change, the author concludes, is a reconsideration of the laws of war in a deliberate and focused international dialogue that includes a range of cultural and institutional perspectives.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Are New Technologies Undermining the Laws of War?

Comments Filter:
  • Re:Arbitrary. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sique ( 173459 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @07:05AM (#45886095) Homepage
    International laws have existed since we have the idea of nations. After the Napoleonic Wars in Europe, there was the Congress of Vienna (1814/15), which effectively created a codex of international law in Europe. Then we have the founding of the International Red Cross after the Battle of Solferino 1859, which in turn was recognized subsequently by all warwaging countries and led to the first treaty about the Geneva Convention in 1864. And even before, there were multisided agreements between different powers which could also be viewed as international law -- think about the flagging rules of battle ships, merchant ships and pirate ships during the Age of the European Expansion between the 15th and the 18th century.

    And yes, like every law, also international laws are often and constantly broken, and enforcing those laws is even more complicated than national law.

  • by jmac_the_man ( 1612215 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @08:22AM (#45886365)

    Then the invention of the bomber allowed civilian murder to be taken to new extremes in WW2. The British bombing campaign was particularly bad, based as it was on the premise that the smallest target that could reliably be hit by night bombers was a city.

    How accurate was German bombing during the Battle of Britain?

  • Re:Also, (Score:4, Informative)

    by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @08:32AM (#45886401)

    There are no justifiable wars.

    The US Civil War?

    World War II?

    Two of the most obvious examples of a justifiable war. There are others.

  • Re:Also, (Score:4, Informative)

    by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @08:49AM (#45886471) Homepage

    Actually, that is sort of the point of these invasions... to make sure that the governments are in some form representative of the people.

    That is pure unadulterated nonsense.

    For example, Hamid Karzai is no more representative of his people than Mohammed Omar: The difference is that Karzai is doing the bidding of the US and US-based oil companies instead of doing the bidding of Al Qaida and Iran. Karzai was not elected, he was selected by a meeting of the regional leaders of Afghanistan where the US Army was standing right outside the door (arguably in case the decision went differently).

    When the people of the Middle East have overthrown dictators and replaced them with democratically elected leaders, the US does their best to put a stop to it. Egypt is the prime example of this: The elected president Mohammed Morsi, though certainly far from a perfect bastion of freedom and democracy, was ousted in a military coup, and the military of Egypt has close ties to the US.

  • by Vitriol+Angst ( 458300 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @08:58AM (#45886505)

    As I get older, it seems that the movie Network is more truth.

    Snowden did not hurt US security -- because this data is likely for sale to China via a contractor. Our "massive trading partner" is not surprised. The "damage" was for the merely large companies to learn what the multinationals already knew. And "spying on everything" takes on other connotations if you think of economics, trade secrets, and negotiations. Sure, getting dirt on politicians is profitable -- but knowing about money and technology is profit.

    If there were an ACTUAL ENEMY out there, the US, the pentagon, and our secret agencies would be acting a lot differently than how they do now. It seems that these governments are more afraid of their own people. It's as if they were making a show of enemies at the gate to convince us to keep building up the castle and disenfranchise us.

    Why is China, after years of peace with the USA while we did not take advantage of superior power, now buying air craft carriers and possibly getting into spending a lot of their prosperity on a military like we do? Is the air craft carrier going to help them dominate something that WalMart didn't already help them own? Are they going to attack a Samsung store down the street? Couldn't they continue dominating the world better by restricting imports and foreign ownership and continuing their public works projects and subsidizing strategic industries? Or are they only interested in "enough prosperity" and then later the same excuses to the middle class why they can no longer "afford education and health care" -- when they have record profits one day like we do now?

  • Re:Also, (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @09:45AM (#45886777)

    Well... instead of complaining you could have done some googling (though I agree the gp should have given a source):

    "Wenn einer mit Vergnügen in Reih und Glied zu einer Musik marschieren kann, dann verachte ich ihn schon; er hat sein großes Gehirn nur aus Irrtum bekommen, da für ihn das Rückenmark schon völlig genügen würde. Diesen Schandfleck der Zivilisation sollte man so schnell wie möglich zum Verschwinden bringen. Heldentum auf Kommando, sinnlose Gewalttat und die leidige Vaterländerei, wie glühend hasse ich sie, wie gemein und verächtlich erscheint mir der Krieg; ich möchte mich lieber in Stücke schlagen lassen, als mich an einem so elenden Tun beteiligen! " (p. 499)
    "Töten im Krieg ist nach meiner Auffassung um nichts besser als gewöhnlicher Mord." (p. 499)

    I'd say the the translation above is pretty close.


  • by Paul Fernhout ( 109597 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @09:56AM (#45886859) Homepage

    From a Marine Major General: [] "Smedley Butler: War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses. I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we'll fight. The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag. I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket."

    At length: []

    Another quote by Einstein: "The release of atomic power has changed everything except our way of thinking ... the solution to this problem lies in the heart of mankind. If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker. (1945)"

    See also this essay by me on how that applies to all forms of modern weaponry, inspired by that Einstein quote, given a modern-day digital watch has more computing power than was used to design the first atomic weapons: []
    Military robots like drones are ironic because they are created essentially to force humans to work like robots in an industrialized social order. Why not just create industrial robots to do the work instead?
    Nuclear weapons are ironic because they are about using space age systems to fight over oil and land. Why not just use advanced materials as found in nuclear missiles to make renewable energy sources (like windmills or solar panels) to replace oil, or why not use rocketry to move into space by building space habitats for more land?
    Biological weapons like genetically-engineered plagues are ironic because they are about using advanced life-altering biotechnology to fight over which old-fashioned humans get to occupy the planet. Why not just use advanced biotech to let people pick their skin color, or to create living arkologies and agricultural abundance for everyone everywhere?
    These militaristic socio-economic ironies would be hilarious if they were not so deadly serious. Here is some dark humor I wrote on the topic:
    A post-scarcity "Downfall" parody remix of the bunker scene.!msg/openmanufacturing/8qspPyyS1tY/vZacyDL86DIJ []
    See also a little ironic story I wrote on trying to talk the USA out of collective suicide because it feels "Burdened by Bags of Sand". []
    Or this YouTube video I put together: The Richest Man in the World: A parable about structural unemployment and a basic income. []
    Likewise, even United States three-letter agencies like the NSA and the CIA, as well as their foreign counterparts, are becoming ironic institutions in many ways. Despite probably having more computing power per square foot than any other place in the world, they seem not to have thought much about the implications of all that computer power and organized information to transform the world into a place of abundance for all. Cheap computing makes possibl

  • Re:Also, (Score:5, Informative)

    by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <{richardprice} {at} {}> on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @10:14AM (#45886979)

    Twas the Octospiders in Clarkes Rama series - any member that voted for or was involved in the war itself had an immediate sentence of death after the hostilities ended.

  • by Sique ( 173459 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @11:55AM (#45887981) Homepage
    Satellite imagery is a very late addition to the game. Artillery cannons have a large range of dozens of miles, and they had it already in WWI. When the Germans attacked the Belgian fortresses at Liege, they did it with their big 16.5-inch-howitzer ("Big Bertha") which had a firing range of about 8 mls. No way for the Belgians to figure out where the cannon actually was placed, they just got the shells on their fortresses. The Paris Gun of 1918 even had a firing range of 80 mls, and when it attacked Paris, the Parisians could not hear the muzzle sound, so they had no clue from where they were attacked.
  • Re:Also, (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @12:54PM (#45888565)

    As Machiavel said: "“People should either be caressed or crushed. If you do them minor damage they will get their revenge; but if you cripple them there is nothing they can do. If you need to injure someone, do it in such a way that you do not have to fear their vengeance.” The problem is that we have indecisive leaders that don't know if they should crush the middle east or caress them. We should take one approach and stick with it not try to do both and ending to do neither.

"The eleventh commandment was `Thou Shalt Compute' or `Thou Shalt Not Compute' -- I forget which." -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982