The advent of new technologies has changed our daily lives, but it also did not spare the arms industry and intelligence. Formerly governed by specific laws, conflicts were between men on a level playing field. Today, UAVs, smart munitions or nanotechnology require new forms of opposition that raise ethical issues, political and legal. The framework for possible or necessary legislation remains to blur now.
The notion of struggle has changed considerably, and is no longer the same as in the twentieth century. The soldiers are less likely to die on the field of war against their opponents. Yet the conflicts have not stopped, they have only taken another form, and they are for many new technologies. These new means of warfare are born with such drones. A technology that has greatly increased in recent years and now replaces the guns.
The use of drones will kill thousands of kilometers, and the means of retaliation are limited for opponents since the war machines are controlled far from the battlefield. The fighters are no longer men but robots.
In addition to the drones, is also found in unmanned ground vehicles. Initially, the robots were used simply to detect and destroy roadside bombs, they will now inspect vehicles to the outskirts of the checkpoints. There are also new means of transmission, safer and more efficient, allowing the networked interconnection of all the players in the battle space between themselves and with HQ. There are smart munitions controlled beyond direct sight. Nanotechnology also enables to imagine future conflicts where arms the size of a wasp will war. Everything has definitely changed.
John Keegan, military historian, this new remote control as a risk of “depersonalization of the battle.” This leads at the same time loss of consciousness acts committed. More importantly, these technologies are evolving so fast that international law must adapt very quickly, and many gray areas remain.
NOT NECESSARILY TECHNOLOGY CONTROLLED
In April 2015, US President Barack Obama has declared a first burr. A drone has killed two hostages of al Qaeda on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The American Warren Weinstein and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto were the first recognized victims. The question arises as to who is guilty of this murder. The soldier who presses the button, the general who gave the order, IT professionals who plan or the state that owns it? International law does not really give an answer.
Other human disasters concern the US air strikes in Pakistan that would have died between 1400 and 3500 including a number of civilians. But the decrees on the law of war say that civilians must be spared. The “smart” weapons, such as drones and stealth aircraft now allow accurate virtual keystrokes, but it still lacks coaching to respect fundamental rights. Today there are international agreements prohibiting or restricting the use of certain weapons, such as chemical and biological weapons, incendiary weapons, and landmines. But the technology is evolving so rapidly that international law is struggling to adapt.
LAWS OF THE GAME CHANGED
The way these systems are directed as well as people in their heads is quite unclear. They are sometimes by civilians, who may be employees of private companies. This case raises the question of the status and protection of these operators. One wonders if their training and responsibility are sufficient in light of the decisions of life and death they take. Studies have shown that it is easier to target and commit abuses, whether the person is physically and emotionally distant from his opponent.
New technology has really changed the approach of things , both in the lives of everyone on the battlefield. This allows us to remotely control the air conditioning in our house also dive into the black a town on the other side of the world. This allows us to upload files to the web in record time, also allows to conduct a remote cyberwar. The 2,000 men of the Chinese army assigned to cyberspace are proof. And in this information warfare the legal framework is also unclear.
The emergence of new technologies in the war industry has changed the nature of conflicts, where conflicts, especially the rules the game. The speed with which new technologies are changing casts doubt on how international law supports them. Drones or cyber spies act too in secret. The ethical and legal issues are yet to be clarified.
BY AURÉLIEN SPERANDIO
Article originally published in The International Journal, partner of SciencePost