The Great Debate UK

Should We Ban Autonomous Weapons?

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–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 UK News:

Libya crisis could scupper British aircraft carriers once and for all

So the world has unfurled a no-fly zone over Libya, apparently undeterred by the lack of Royal Navy aircraft carriers. Judging by the uniforms gracing the steps of 10 Downing Street on Friday and the attacks launched over the weekend, Britain’s military top brass haven’t been put off either.

Britain's Defence Secretary Liam Fox and the Chief of the Defence Staff General David Richards arrive in Downing Street

Liam Fox and General David Richards in Downing Street

The Libya crisis has, until now, provided a platform for the “Save our Aircraft Carriers Campaign” to champion its cause but in the process they’ve thrown down some whopping red herrings.

from UK News:

Defence industry needs PR rethink

defenceBritain’s defence industry held its annual public relations exercise on Tuesday at London’s swanky Atrium Restaurant in Westminster.

The "charm" offensive –- held under the auspices of trade body the Defence Industries Council (DIC) –- began with executives from BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and QinetiQ, among others, telling assorted media that the defence industry needs more investment (not less) even during a recession.

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