SSWG e-Conference Series Archive:
"The Future of Fighting"

Conference V Transcript:
"New Capabilities"

Original e-Conference date: May 17, 2012
(oldest comments first)


Hi everyone, and welcome to the CIC and CDFAI's Future of Fighting discussion, "New Capabilities," with Peter Singer of the Brookings Institution and Jennifer Welsh of Oxford University. I am an assistant professor of public and international affairs at the University of Ottawa and the moderator of the Future of Fighting Series. I will be moderating this discussion - and the five that follow. We’re looking forward to bringing in questions from the online public, so please add them to the live-chat or, for those on Twitter, use #CICLive.
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 1:58 PM


We're live, talking #drones with Oxford's Jennifer Welsh and @peterwsinger from @BrookingsInst bit.ly Tweet Qs with #CICLive
by TheCIC via twitter May 29 at 1:59 PM


Hello all, I am excited to join the discussion...
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:01 PM

Hi Phillippe, I'm please to be part of the discussion.
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:01 PM


Welcome, Peter and Jennifer!
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 2:01 PM


Let me start with a question for each of you.
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 2:02 PM


Peter, Presidents have questioned the constitutionality of the War Powers Act since it was passed and they have often circumvented it, especially when undertaking more limited operations. Do drones make it easier for Presidents to get around Congressional approval or do they represent a larger challenge to the separation of powers?
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 2:02 PM


Jennifer, both you and Peter note that war powers tend to be divided between the legislative and executive branches in liberal democracies. The Westminster system is something of outlier in that regard, since the use of military forces is, at least in strictly legal terms, a purview of the executive. As a Canadian living in the United Kingdom, do you feel that drones represent a particular challenge for Westminster parliaments when it comes to overseeing their executives, insofar as the latter are already fairly weak in their ability to act as a check on Cabinet?
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 2:02 PM


A great question. What we are seeing is a technology that wasnt anticipated when they first developed the War powers act...
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:03 PM


Yes, given that parliamentarian systems don't have the same degree of oversight, the freedom of Prime Ministers to use drones freely is even greater ...
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:03 PM


For the first 200 years of American democracy, engaging in combat and bearing risk — both personal and political — went hand in hand. In the age of drones, that is no longer the case.
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:04 PM


But even in the U.S. system, it is troubling to see how much discretion the Presidency has - and how this President at least makes decisions about drone attacks himself ....
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:05 PM


Peter, along the same lines, the American executive was involved in covert operations throughout the Cold War and well into the 1990s and 2000s; is the use of drones a continuation of this practice in a new form or does it represent take clandestine killings and surveillance to new, more worrisome levels?
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 2:05 PM


So now, we've seen the president argue (and the congress accept without arguing back) that it is is only the second part, when troops go into harm's way, that the act kicks in. This was the argument made in Libya...
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:06 PM


Jennifer, do drones erode our notion of a 'battlefield' or is it the drone's target who have done so already? Put differently, are drones responsible for helping to erode the notion or are they a response to guerilla/insurgent/asymmetric who have been erasing the idea of a battlefield for some time?
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 2:07 PM
The question is what happens in more complex scenarios (say Syria, or Iran), or with different leaders or political parties involved (say a republican president and a democrat house). that is, the congress accepted the argument, but now the longterm precedent is huge.
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:08 PM


the War Powers act discussion applies to the overt use of military force, but as you ask, there is perhaps a bigger trend hap[pening with covert operations (or given how they are talked about so frequently in the media, I call them "not so covert").
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:08 PM


It's true that terrorism, as practiced today, has eroded the standard idea of a battlefield ...
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:09 PM


But to say that drone attacks simply respond to the challenge of terrorism, on 'its terms' is to miss the implications of using drones as a tool of targeted killing ...
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:09 PM


So, there's nothing to say drones can't and won't be used to target other kinds of perceived enemies - like the leaders of regimes we don't like ....
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:10 PM


Great points, Peter. Thank you.
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 2:10 PM


in many ways, the most apt parallel to the operatiosn today in places like yemen or Pakistan are not the 1990s, but more like the 1950s and 60s, where the CIA had a very active operational side, far more than the 90s. IE, the air campaign today is akin to when CIA operated a squadron of B-26 bombers back in the banana wars. The challange is similar in a policy sense...
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:10 PM


Peter, speaking of Congress: should Congress be thinking about amending the War Powers Act to address the challenge posed by drones? And if so, do you sense that there is a will to do so among members of Congress today?
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 2:11 PM


Imagine, for example, that we start to think of drones as a way to avoid war altogether. So we use them to take out 'dangerous' leaders, before they can wage war on us ...
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:11 PM


Those covert operations worked in some manner, but the risk was that they began to be used too frequently, and got ahead of where Congress and the public were at in levels of support. And secondly, what made sense at the tactical level, often didnt jibe perfectly with the strategic level and so unexpected blowback effects would play out.
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:12 PM


What is unique here is that specific individuals are being targeted for assassination (as opposed to the more anonymous kind of killing we see in traditional war) ....
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:13 PM


Yes, Congress has effectively been AWOL on some of the most important discussions of war in the last decade. The select committees in Intel get briefings on it and sometimes privately weigh in, but Congress as a whole has consistently avoided making actual votes on these tough topics really since the authorization that passed right after 9-11
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:14 PM


Louise Arbour of @crisisgroup said the other day on drone strikes that it is "virtually impossible to determine whether they are used in compliance with the laws of war" Do those using drone have a duty and responsbility to show they are being used in compliance with LOAC?
by Drone_Wars_UK May 29 at 2:14 PM


We've got a question: Do those using drone have a duty and responsbility to show they are being used in compliance with Law of Armed Conflict?
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 2:15 PM


The answer to that question about the LOAC depends on whether we view the kinds of drone attacks we are seeing in Pakistan and Yemen as part of a war. Those who view counter-terrorism through more of a law-enforcement lens would deny that the laws of war apply ....
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:16 PM


I should add this is a trend that has a longer history to it. The war powers act was of course a response to a broader dodge, conducting war but not declaring war. The last time the US congress actually declared war was 70 years ago, against Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania, the minor Axis powers. and yet, its hard to say we havent engaged in war at some point for the last 70 years.
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:17 PM


So if we take that law enforcement view, drone attacks are effectively extrajudicial killings, not part of 'war'
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:17 PM


Drone attacks in Yemen kill innocent people, alienates, angers and aggravates the general Yemeni public, giving extremists a motive to join militant groups. It is counterproductive, illegal and inhuman. Drone strikes are not justified as they aften miss targets and mostly are based on suspicions. #CIClive
by NoonArabia May 29 at 2:17 PM


It is important to distinguish between the overt military use of "drones" and the covert civilian intelligence agency use. For the most part, the military use has raised no problems with LOAC. They are fairly tranparent with the targetting, which laws apply etc. Its treated no different than a manned system...
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:18 PM


But if we accept the line that the U.S. is engaged in a 'war' with Al Qaeda, the question becomes: are they in compliance with notions like non-combatant immunity and proportionality?
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:18 PM


Are drone attacks changing the concept of collateral damage? #ciclive
by naomi_joseph via twitter May 29 at 2:19 PM


Jennifer, with respect to the assassination question, are you equally concern with the use of special operations forces to perform these assassinations, as in the case of Bin Laden, or do you see a more problematic issue arising with drones?
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 2:19 PM


The Obama Administration has claimed that there are few, if any, civilian casualties from drone strikes. But this conclusion is based on a questionable approach to considering who is a combatant ...
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:19 PM


Where it gets sticky is the not so covert use in areas outside of official war zones. That is often the problem with how humanitarians and media talk about it. They need to understand the difference.
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:19 PM


From what I understand, the administration has taken the view that any military-aged male in the vicinity of a drone strike is effectively a combatant (unless proven otherwise after the fact). This doesn't sound like a practice consistent with the LOAC.
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:20 PM


Peter, building on the issue of who uses the drones, is it fair to say that Congress could have a greater degree of control over the military's drones through the appropriations process, whereas it might not have the same control when dealing with the CIA's?
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 2:21 PM


Noami, via twitter, asks if drones are changing our concept of collateral damage .
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 2:22 PM


On Phillippe's question about assassination generally: I think the answer hinges on whether capture, vs. killing is possible. Let's assume that we already have established that our 'target' poses a threat. In that case, the question becomes whether non-lethal alternatives are really available ....
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:22 PM


the question on "collateral damage" is a fascinating one. yes, our concept of it, and more importantly our expectations of it are being reshaped by the technology. Its not just the idea of who should and shouldnt be on a "kill list" but also what is acceptable or not. Think of having US bombing in WW2 guided by a "kill list" but also thinking you could hit each target with confidence...
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:23 PM


When we say that drones are "un-manned," it seems like we are forgetting the soldiers that control the drones remotely. Professor Welsh’s article mentions that the moral weight of war is felt by drone operators. What are the implications for war norms when war becomes something more like a videogame? Do soldiers responsible for drone attacks feel guilty in the same way?
by Jane May 29 at 2:23 PM


The Navy Seals who went in to get Bin Laden obviously faced a much greater risk than a drone operator does - and they also had the opportunity to exercise judgment. My worry with drones is that they tend to encourage killing, vs. capture.
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:24 PM


In WW2, it took 108 B-17 bomber missions, each dropping dozens of bombs, to get one bomb on the intended target. Today, a M8-9 Reaper can take out multiple targets. So our expectations of what can and should happen are well different.
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:24 PM


Thank you, Jennifer. I think that is a very important nuance that is often missed in the discussion.
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 2:25 PM


A question from Jane: What are the implications for war norms when war becomes something more like a videogame? Do soldiers responsible for drone attacks feel guilty in the same way?
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 2:25 PM


The question about guilt is extremely interesting. If we consult the work of psychologists, they claim that proximity does affect one's sense of guilt (and even the capacity to inflict harm). But I don't think we can conclude that drone operators feel no guilt whatsoever.
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:25 PM


The video game effect of war is felt more on the public than the operator. Think about it this way: the US Army needs to convince roughly 70,000 youth to volunteer to join each year. That's it versus the roughly 5 million that play video game versions of war each day. So, its more about the end of the draft than anything else.
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:26 PM


Regarding if a person "poses a threat", exterminating him is not ethical and counterproductive. What happened to the suspect is innocent until found guilty and the normal route of justice? #CIClive
by NoonArabia May 29 at 2:27 PM


What I find interesting is the anecdotes I have heard about how drone operators, sitting in the middle of the United States, view their role as 'soldiers'. Some put a uniform on every day, and view themselves as part of the battle. Others, as Jane suggests, see themselves as doing something very different.
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:27 PM


Peter, how quickly are we expecting drone technology to advance in the coming decades? What more will these platforms be able to do in the near future?
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 2:27 PM


I disagree with Peter's argument that in a situation of war - such as Afghanistan - the use of drones is no different from manned systems. There ability to loiter looking for 'targets of opportunity' and 'suspicious behaviour' raises key concerns. A US military enquiry into an attack in Feb 2010 found that the drone pilots had a 'propenisty towards kinetic attack'.
by Drone_Wars_UK May 29 at 2:27 PM


We also have a question about the ethical considerations Jennifer mentioned: What happened to the suspect is innocent until found guilty and the normal route of justice?
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 2:28 PM


on the guilt factor: This issue of combat stress and fatigue also hitting operator in these units is something i covered in my Wired for War book, chapter 17-18. the operators and their officers described it as definitely stressful, but a different kind of stress.
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:28 PM


NoonArabia's point is a good one. The way that drones are being used now does, in my view, threaten to erode this idea of 'innocent until proven guilty'. Those doing the 'counting' after an attack tend to treat more of the victims as combatants than is probably warranted.
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:29 PM


Not so much about exposing oneself to danger but dealing with stressful decisions day after day after day, akin to being a fireman with a fire to fight every single day. the 24-7 nature of the mission set was grinding.
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:30 PM


We also hosted an event with the top USAF doctor on the issue. you can read more about it here: www.brookings.edu
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:30 PM


So I'm guessing, Peter, that the stress is not that that arises from the horror of seeing one's victim 'up close', but rather the larger question of participating in an act where they victim has little or no chance of defending himself?
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:31 PM


Thank you for the link, Peter!
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 2:31 PM


Given these ethical dilemmas and their apparent blowback effects, why has the United States been draw to targeted killings that rely on drones?
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 2:31 PM


To Phillipe's question on the future: The technology is advancing in 1) its diversity of size shape and form --going from systems that look just like manned machines to systems that range in size from having wings the length of football fields to ones the size of insects...
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:32 PM


Just on Peter's discussion of Congressional oversight for war. I think one of the aspects of U.S. drone attacks that worries some is that it is often the CIA that draws up the 'kill list'. This raises the general issue of the legitimacy of the authority behind these decisions ....
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:32 PM


My sense is that counter-terroism in general, and particularly the preventive aspects of it, fall down because of the public's lack of trust of bodies like the CIA, which are shrouded in secrecy.
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:33 PM


change 2) systems that are ever more intelligent and autonomous. We already have systems that can take off and land on their own, fly mission waypoints on their own, etc. we are adding capaibilities to carry smart sensors that recognize targets or react to "pop-up" threats...
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:33 PM


Drone strikes has made it acceptable to kill from a distance, not exposing one to danger, yet where the target is missed and civilians loose their life, they are just "collateral damage".
by NoonArabia May 29 at 2:34 PM


change 3) this greater intelligence means they are becoming easier to use, which widens the set of users. You used to have to be a trained pilot to fly a drone. Now, there are apps that allow almost anyone to.
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:34 PM


This is why, perhaps, President Obama has insisted on approving each and every attack from the 'kill list' himself (in the same way that Administration officials have approved every name on the list of those detainees who remain at Guant. Bay)
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:34 PM


4) and so you are seeing uses in all sorts of domains and endevaors, from survelience to strike to cargo delivery to medical you name it. And this proliferation of roles and uses crosses over to the civilian sector, which creates its own nest of legal and ethical questions to figure out
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:35 PM


What NoonArabia says about 'killing from a distance' is true, but we shouldn't exaggerate the role of drones here. Airpower, and bombing, also made it possible to kill from a distance ....
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:35 PM


I would like to know what you think of the continuous drone attacks in Yemen, do you think it will eliminate al- Qaeda. We've seen how well that worked in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
by NoonArabia May 29 at 2:36 PM


Where drone attacks seem different, is that they are targeting a pre-identified individual - and often not as part of war in a conventional sense ....
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:36 PM


To Jennifer's question on the stress causes: Its early in teh game to know, as remember, we have been at war for 5000 years as humans and dont understand "regular" PTSD, let alone how it plays out for those in a new type of battle experience...
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:36 PM


Question from Noon Arabia: I would like to know what you think of the continuous drone attacks in Yemen, do you think it will eliminate al- Qaeda. We've seen how well that worked in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 2:37 PM


I think what is most troubling about the attacks in Yemen is their broader effect, which Peter has talked about. They are contributing to a militant narrative whereby the government of Yemen is seen as a U.S. puppet
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:38 PM


Short q: Do drone missions have jurisdictional advantage (sovereignty-wise)? Is it easier than putting "boots on the ground" with respect to international law?
by Shannon Nieve May 29 at 2:38 PM


but some of the factors include 1) seeing more of the combat and weapons effect than say bomber pilots did in the past, 2) the grinding 24-7 nature of the missions, that the "war" never ends, 3) the mashup of "fighting" and then 20 minutes later being at home with your kids talking about schoolwork at the dinner table, 5) how hard it is to build unit cohesion among those fighting from all sorts of locales (unit cohesion or the "band of brothers" effect is one of the real defenses against stress in war)
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:39 PM


Jennifer says that we shouldn't exaggerate about 'killing from a distance' as manned aircraft kill from a distance, but manned aircraft don't loiter for hours, days, weeks even looking for 'targets of opportunity'
by Drone_Wars_UK May 29 at 2:39 PM


We've talked quite a bit about the negative, or potentially negative, side of drone technology. Are these any positives? One might think, for instance, that states will maintain armed forces, regardless of whether they have drones or not. Might drones make those armed forces less expensive over the long term, freeing up money for social programs, aid, and other non-military projects?
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 2:40 PM


A question from Shannon:Do drone missions have jurisdictional advantage (sovereignty-wise)? Is it easier than putting "boots on the ground" with respect to international law?
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 2:40 PM


It's unquestionably easier than putting boots on the ground. That's why U.S. officials believe drone attacks are both ethical (because they are seen to involve less loss of life, both in terms of civilians and U.S. soldiers) and wise. But the fact that they are easier does not mean they are necessarily more ethical.
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:40 PM


In terms of the violation of sovereignty, that is a more complex question. Boots on the ground, if not part of a peacekeeping mission, do involve a violation of sovereignty (if authorized by the UN Security Council, this has nonetheless been accepted as legal). But there are violations of sovereignty n another way - of Yemen and Pakistan.
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:42 PM


To Shannon's question on jurisdictional advantage: It shouldn't legally matter, but it has been a figleaf for the states involved to utilize. IE, both Pakistan and Yemen have allowed US military access, without having to publicly say they allowed boots on the ground. the problem is by avoiding the discussion, it sets up a longerterm conundrum, like in pakistan now. Where the govt. both conddemns the strikes publicly, but also has been involved in their operations for the last several years. IE, you cant claim violation of soverignty if you both authorized them and even allowed them to fly from bases inside your country
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:42 PM


Yes, but Jennifer, in many cases there is lack of information regarding the "targets" and who end up being killed in the drone strikes are civilians as we saw in the Majala attack in December where 41 civilians, including 22 children were killed. bit.ly
by NoonArabia May 29 at 2:43 PM


The point about drones 'loitering' is a good one. I do think that is an important aspect of what makes them different.
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:44 PM


To the question about positive side: By lowering the potential losses, it gives policymakers more freedom to act. This can be a negative, in getting involved into situations we shouldnt, but of course it can be a positive also, in acting quickly to bad situations or to problems that dont have enough public support yet...
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:45 PM


I agree that civilians have been caught in the effect of drones. But there remains a view that they are nonetheless 'more ethical' because there are fewer civilian deaths. This implies a particular view of morality as based on consequences.
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:46 PM


This is why you have seen many humanitarians talk about using them in Syria. But again, the problem is when you have a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail, and the check of the public can be frustrating to policmakers who see a glaring need for action, but its also one of the things that makes democracy a system of government we find better than others.
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:46 PM


Jennifer, could you elaborate on the connection you made between drones and democratic peace theory? The theory tells us that liberal democracies don't go to war against one another, but that they do go to war, and are often determined to prosecute, wars against non-liberal states. Do drones make it all the more tempting to use force against those who "don't share our values"?
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 2:48 PM


The question about positives feeds into a larger debate about whether technological advancement, by requiring smaller armies, gives us more 'butter' and 'less guns'. But has that argument really played out in terms of expenditures in, say, the U.S.?
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:49 PM


Yes, democratic peace theory can't help us explain why and how democracies use force against non-democracies. As Peter is suggesting, drones may facilitate more of that belligerent behaviour, as they are perceived to have few negative side-effects as a 'means' of war.
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:50 PM


The "loitering issue" is an aspect of the technology. my point is that the process that is followed is far more transparent when it is military battlefield use than when it is these not-so-covert operations. the ROE's are fairly clear (vs. the "kill list" confusion), the legal grounding is more clearcut, and frankly the people involved have a clearer chain of command and route of legal consequences if they get it wrong. So, oddly, the fog of war is less thick on the military use side of drones than the civilian use side.
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:51 PM


I think the expenditure issue is an interesting one. Personnel costs are taking up a larger and larger portion of defence budgets. If those begin to fall, it might help contribute to economies in defence spending.
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 2:52 PM


It is also interesting to note that as a portion of gross domestic product, defence spending has been on the decline in NATO countries over the past 50 years. Perhaps more automation and digitization will accelerate the trend?
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 2:52 PM


I disagree, I don't see anything "ethical" about drones, perhaps one can argue that they are justified as a more efficient military tool in terms of cost and no soldiers death.
by NoonArabia May 29 at 2:52 PM


What I'm saying, then, is that changes in military capabilities can have an effect on the interests of democratic states - by expanding them. We saw this in the Cold War. Originally, the idea of containment was more limited, and did not involve a global countering of communism everywhere and anywhere. But once the U.S. expanded its means (especially through nuclear weapons) its interests also expanded.
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:52 PM


this serach for ecnomies of spending is actually one of the drivers for more automation of the systems. It is very expensive to operate, the ratio of people to Predator mission is around 68 peple per machine. So, we are moving to put more autonomy into the sysems --from their sensors to the analysis on the backend-- to reduce thsoe costs, but of cousre, the more you automate, the stickier the legal and ethical issues become. that is, you start doing something we said we would never ever do, move humans out of the loop...
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:55 PM


NoonArabia - I wasn't necessarily saying they are, point blank, more ethical. I was suggesting that this is how they are being viewed, using a consequentialist framework. I think we need to ask, as I tried to do in my blog, whether targeted killing of an individual can ever be justified. And if it can, under what circumstances? I think Peter is right to say that it is the civilian use of this technology (the 'kill lists') that is really problematic here.
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:55 PM


We're entering our last five minutes. What do you think readers should take away from the drone debate? What is the most pressing issue, in your minds?
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 2:56 PM


ROE's are not clear - they are secret! In fact we know much more about drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen than we do in Afghanistan!
by Drone_Wars_UK May 29 at 2:56 PM


already the USAf has started using the phrase humans "on the loop"
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 2:56 PM


Very interesting indeed, Peter! Thanks.
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 2:57 PM


Thanks for organising this!
by Drone_Wars_UK May 29 at 2:58 PM


I think the question of accountability is really key here, particularly as we move to automation. Already engineers and technicians are trying to design weapons and delivery systems such that they can incorporate 'ethical decision-making'. But is this really possible?
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 2:58 PM


I must admit that it sounds far fetched, Jennifer.
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 3:00 PM


Sorry, Drone Wars, you are just wrong on that. strikes using "drones" in Afghanistan follow pretty much the very same ROE's as any other manned system and the data on strikes is regularly reported by official sources, even down to yearly numbers of munitiosn used. When they have gotten it wrong, there is an investigation and sometimes a court martial process initiated. With civilian intelligence use world in pakistan, etc, its all unconfirmed infomation via leaks, and unclear accountability if things go wrong.
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 3:00 PM


Thank you both for a very interesting and fruitful discussion!
by Philippe Lagassé May 29 at 3:00 PM


Good to be on line with all of you. Thanks for your questions.
by Jennifer Welsh May 29 at 3:01 PM


NO, the "ethical" software is mostly vaporware right now. It doesnt really exist in usable form. Even if it did, ethics is not just about action but intent, which takes us back to the humans involved.
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 3:01 PM


An important question we should ask ourselves besides the debate of their ethics,is how effective have drone strikes been in eradicating terrorism.
by NoonArabia May 29 at 3:02 PM


Bottom line for me: There are no silverbullet solutions in life, either for technology or ethics.
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 3:02 PM


Thank you for this discussion.
by NoonArabia May 29 at 3:02 PM


Many thanks to all, a fun discussion. next time I will have my robot do the typing...
by Peter W. Singer May 29 at 3:03 PM

 

 

 

 


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