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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.'"
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Are New Technologies Undermining the Laws of War?

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  • Arbitrary. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by betterprimate ( 2679747 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @06:18AM (#45885939)

    International laws? what? They only arose after the nuclear arms race and have never been abided by. There is only one justified cause for warfare and that's self defense, and even then it raises moral objections.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @07:09AM (#45886113)

    You are incorrect.

    There is a large number of illegal (under international law) acts that may not be performed in war. A war of aggression is, by definition, illegal under the UN charter. Granted, the US has a long history of completely ignoring such laws but blatantly dismissing the Geneva conventions as well as WMD accords is a wasp's nest.

  • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo@nOspAm.world3.net> on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @07:58AM (#45886275) Homepage Journal

    Actually that is the law. Starting a war of aggression is always a crime in international law. The only reason any nation is allowed to wage war is in self defence. That is why many people consider the Iraq invasion to have been illegal.

    As for colonies international law requires that populations be given the right to self determination. It's hard to enforce but in theory if the population of a geographical area within a country can show that they wish to be independent the country is obliged to try and facilitate that, perhaps through devolved powers or by letting them set up on their own. Slavery is illegal, internal revolutions are not wars per-se but internal conflict or civil war. The law only applies to nation states, not individuals or factions within nations.

  • Re:Also, (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rioki ( 1328185 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @08:43AM (#45886443) Homepage

    Got news, the Geneva and Hague Convention only apply to regular military. So the moment you are either facing or are irregular combatants everything goes. But then you need to remember by who when the treaties where singed. At the time generals would send thousand men to their deaths and then congratulate each other over their victories over a cup of tee.

    Your assertions are correct and have lead to the impression of "clean" wars. But every war is dirty and bloody. I think each congressman and general should be required to send their brother, child or brother into the field in a war they authorize. If after that the war still seems like a good idea (e.g. destroying Nazi Germany*) then it worth fighting.

    (* I am part German and still think it was a necessary and good idea... in general)

  • Re:Also, (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Muad'Dave ( 255648 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @08:52AM (#45886485) Homepage

    There was a sci-fi book I once read (for the life of me I can't remember the title) that had an alien society where if their governing body declared war, they'd fight the battle, and then all members of the governing body that voted for the war were put to death. You had to believe so strongly that the war was just that you were willing to give your own life.

    I think that's a grand idea.

  • Re:Ignorance (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @09:00AM (#45886517)

    Your statement is correct. For example it is illegal under the rules of war to act in a battlefield and to not wear a uniform. If you are captured on a battlefield and you are not in uniform and you do not disclose your military ID data, (Name rank serial number) you are under the Geneva conventions a Spy and subject to summary execution. Every prisoner we took in Afghanistan and most in Iraq would have fit in this category. All Al Qaeda prisoners fit this category. Oh by the way, spies may be tortured under these conventions.

  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @09:33AM (#45886709)
    Clausewitz stated in his book "On War" that war is won by the most violent. Therefore the one with the biggest guns (or at least the one who makes the most effective use of them) wins. And he gets to write the rules, and ignore the inconvenient ones. After all - who is going to stop him? The "rules of war" are only good during peacetime, and usually only as a pretext to help justify another war. Ironic, no?
  • by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @09:45AM (#45886779) Homepage

    I spent some time volunteering in Africa, and I've seen the problems of hunger firsthand.

    There is enough food overall... not much excess, but often enough for everyone to survive. The problem is that, for example, the food is over on the fertile side of a mountain ridge, while the starving people are on the other side. The only pass is controlled by a local oppressor who charges high tolls to use "his" road, and he's able to bribe the government agents and local police into letting him stay.

    One option is to just keep paying the tolls, and those starving people keep starving... but it's easy, and offends nobody.

    Someone with wealth could pay the toll or use a different route, and bring ample food to support the locals, but then they're dependent on those gifts, and the oppressor could start using force to maintain his rule. The money used for support is also a drain on the provider's economy, so the future stability of such a supply is questionable.

    The reliance on the pass could be removed, but that means improving local production. It's a long process, at best, and requires a large start-up cost.

    Finally, we could just use force. Send in a squad of trained soldiers to forcibly allow traffic through the pass, even if that means killing the armed guards enforcing the tolls. Through overwhelming force, ensure that no replacements will be able to oppress traffic again.

    Of course, force is never easy. There's always the risk that the oppressor will fight back, or that a new oppressor will patiently wait until the squad leaves to take over again. There will be some locals who oppose the intrusion, especially since they have been told (often by the oppressor himself) that the greatest embarrassment they could have is to accept help from outsiders. There will also be those who don't understand the connection between the tolls, the food supply, and standard of living - they just think they're poor because God is punishing them (and the church's leaders don't understand well enough to change that, either).

    Going from that 0% to a sustained 0.1% is the hardest step, because it means removing the long-term limits that have already exhausted the local ability to provide for themselves. Once those barriers are gone and food is available at reasonable prices, going to 0.2% or higher is just a matter of doing the same thing more... move more trucks of tubers, make more salable products, and so forth. It's an upward spiral, but starting the process isn't easy.

  • Re:Also, (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cusco ( 717999 ) <brian@bixby.gmail@com> on Tuesday January 07, 2014 @01:21PM (#45888803)

    Pipeline, rare earth elements (which the Soviets had mapped), but most important it was the largest source of opiates on the planet before the Taliban shut down production. The only opium still being grown in the country was in the territory controlled by our allies the Northern Warlords, and the prospective loss of income was frightening for the large international banks. Over a trillion dollars in drug money is laundered every year, over half of it through the US, with bank charges averaging 10-15% for the service. The Colombians and Mexicans were starting to pick up the slack, but they launder their money differently and the banksters were looking at a huge revenue loss. Certainly not the only reason for the invasion, just one of several.

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?