Monday, April 30, 2007

Technology in Battle...Can it go to far?

As we have learned in this class, technology plays a major role in how battles are fought and history provides many examples. Going back to when the English employed the use of the longbow against the Genovese crossbowman or some more recent twentieth century examples that occurred during the first World War when allied tanks were able to help break the stalemate along the western front or the ultimate technological victory the U.S. had against Japan when it was able to end WWII by dropping two Atomic bombs. The ability of a war combatant to stay ahead of the technological curve has been important to victory. However, as the U.S. military begins to shift to the use of "less human more robot" military tactics, I can help to think if we are going to far.

Some modern examples of unmanned technological advances include unmanned predator drones which can be made for surveillance or attack as we saw when one of these warplanes took out an alleged terrorist convoy last year. Although, not truly autonomous because a remote control was used you can help but think one day a computer will be making the decision on whether someone lives or dies. Further examples include, the Air Forces decision to not have a successor to the F-22 and instead design a unmanned plan to take its place. As we have discussed in class, most air force pilots realize their fate and know in the future they will probably be replaced with unmanned drones. By eliminating the use of human pilots, the Air Force doesn't have to continue to train cadets or continue engineering expensive systems designed to protect the crew, which all result in substantially lower costs. Also, Smaller unmanned tanks are being considered in the Army because they create less of a target for the enemy. Army engineers would be able to cut engineering costs because they wouldn't have to account for a human crew which largely accounts for the tank's size.

The most important principle thought to be behind the unmanned revolution is that the innovations will result in less military casualties. Further, the military branches are able to cut expenses considerably through less training of humans and less engineering being devoted to protective measures for the human controllers. While I feel we all believe that less casualties is a good thing, I also think about the moral and ethical dilemmas we may one day be facing. The major deterrent to going to war is commonly quantified by the number of casualties thought to be incurred. If this variable is removed, we could begin slipping into the slippery slope where political leaders no longer consider domestic casualties and thus war increases as a more viable option then it normally would have been before these innovations. Additionally, one day computers or machines may have full autonomy in deciding if a human combatant lives or dies. I can't help but realize the ethical and moral standards that will come along with these current evolution.

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