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from The Great Debate UK:

Should We Ban Autonomous Weapons?

--Charles Blanchard is a partner at Arnold & Porter LLP, and a panelist at the Chatham House conference on autonomous weapons. He was formerly general counsel of the US Air Force. The opinions expressed are his own.--

It sounds like something right out of a blockbuster science fiction movie: killer robots that make decisions on who to kill without any human involvement. Not surprisingly, several human rights groups have argued that now is the time for a ban on the development and deployment of these weapons. While there are very real ethical and legal concerns with these potential weapon systems, such a ban is both unnecessary and likely counterproductive.

There are very serious legal concerns with the use of any autonomous weapon. Under well established principles of international law, every targeting decision in war requires a careful set of judgments that are currently made by human beings: Is this target a legitimate military target? Will there be harm to civilians from the strike? Is the value of the military target nonetheless proportional to this harm?

Great progress has been made in robotics, but it is unlikely that any autonomous robot now or in the near future would have the capacity to distinguish military targets from civilians with any accuracy or make the legally critical judgment about the proportionality of military value to civilian harm.

from Photographers' Blog:

Commemorating Operation Pedestal

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Valletta, Malta

By Darrin Zammit Lupi

In ever dwindling numbers, elderly war veterans keep their annual mid-August appointment in Valletta's Grand Harbour to take part in a commemorative service marking the anniversary of Operation Pedestal. Known to the Maltese as the Santa Marija convoy (as it had reached the island on the feast day of Our Lady of the Assumption, an important day in Malta's religious calendar), Pedestal was a desperate attempt by the Allied forces to get much-needed supplies of food, fuel and ammunition to the bomb-battered island of Malta in August 1942, at the height of the war in the Mediterranean.

Malta, a British air and naval base at the time, was on the brink of starvation and close to surrendering to the Axis powers that surrounded it on all sides. The operation's success, albeit with heavy losses, has gone down in military history as one of the most important British strategic victories of World War Two, even though it was in many ways a tactical disaster.

from Expert Zone:

Opting for lean and mean armies

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(The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not represent those of Reuters)

The British army is being cut to size, or perhaps, being stripped to its bones. The British defence secretary has announced a 20 percent cut, reducing its strength to 82,000 combatants by the end of the decade.

from Oddly Enough Blog:

Join the army, and pamper yourself!

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Now, if you just sign on the dotted line, son, it'll be official. You'll be a private in the U.S. Army.

I don't know sir, I'm still not sure about this.

Look, I'm a professional recruiter, so I have to be totally honest with you. What's holding you back, young man?

from FaithWorld:

Israeli military enlisting frontline rabbis, critic warns creating against “God’s army”

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(A Jewish rabbi instructs an Israeli Border Policeman to recite prayers as he prays in the neighborhood of Gilo on the outskirts of Jerusalem October 23, 2000./Peter Andrews)

The Israeli military is mustering battlefield rabbis in what it calls a campaign to promote religious values in its frontline ranks. The move, announced in the latest issue of the military's official weekly magazine, Bamahane, drew fire on Monday from one of Israel's most popular newspaper columnists, who cautioned against creating a "God's Army."

from FaithWorld:

Hizb ut-Tahrir urges Pakistanis to take to the streets for Islamic rule

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(A protester pokes his head through a banner during a demonstration by members of Hizb ut-Tahrir outside the Syrian embassy in central London, May 7, 2011/Andrew Winning)

Hizb ut-Tahrir, a global Islamist party banned in many Muslim states, said on Friday Pakistanis should take to the streets to call for Islamic rule and join a campaign to end subservience to Washington that was advancing "from Indonesia to Tunisia".  The party, which says it is non-violent but is accused by some analysts of seeking a coup in Islamabad, added that "powerful factions" in Pakistani society including the military should also take part, but violence had no place in its work.

from FaithWorld:

Israel’s army chief under fire about God reference in memorial rites

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(An Israeli army rabbi (L) recites prayers as he leads the funeral procession for a soldier killed in southern Lebanon, 1 Feb 2000/Jim Hollander. )

The Israeli military is embroiled in a public battle over whether God ought to be mentioned at memorial rites for fallen soldiers. The ferocity of the debate, going to the heart of Israel's secular and religious Jewish divide, prompted the intervention on Monday of a parliamentary panel that urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's fractious cabinet to decide the issue.

from FaithWorld:

Egypt’s Grand Mufti prays with generals, urges Muslim-Christian unity

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interfaith tahrir

(A rally to demonstrate unity between Muslims and Christians at Tahrir Square in Cairo March 11, 2011/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Egypt's problems will melt under "the sunshine of freedom", Grand Mufti Sheikh Ali Gomaa said in a sermon attended by the ruling military council on Friday when thousands gathered across the country to condemn sectarian violence. He prayed for God to bestow strength on the military which has been governing Egypt since Hosni Mubarak was forced from power on Feb. 11 by an uprising demanding political reform and an end to autocratic rule.

from FaithWorld:

U.S. military chaplains air issues

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chaplain

(A U.S. army chaplain leads a Sunday service in a chapel in the U.S. forces' camp in Baghdad, January 28, 2007/Erik de Castro)

Chaplains representing every branch of  the U.S. military and many faiths gathered on Wednesday to discuss everything from counseling stressed-out soldiers to a recent lawsuit charging the military neglects a sexually abusive culture.

from Pakistan: Now or Never?:

Army, Allah and America: on Pakistani pitfalls and the future of Egypt

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egyptAll countries are unique and comparing two of the world's most populous Muslim countries, Egypt and Pakistan, is as risky as comparing Britain to France at the time of the French Revolution. But many of the challenges likely to confront Egypt as it emerges from the mass protests against the 30-year-rule of President Hosni Mubarak are similar to those Pakistan has faced in the past, and provide at least a guide on what questions need to be addressed.  In Pakistan, they are often summarised as the three A's -- Army, Allah and America.

Both have powerful armies which are seen as the backbone of the country; both have to work out how to accommodate political Islam with democracy, both are allies of America, yet with people who resent American power in propping up unpopular elites.

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