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 The Great Debate:

Addressing China’s ‘soft power deficit’

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Xi Jinping (L) met with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Feb. 14, 2012.  REUTERS/Jason Reed

As Chinese President Xi Jinping prepares for his landmark summit with President Barack Obama in California Friday and Saturday, the critical mission of improving China’s image in the world could well be uppermost in his mind.

from FaithWorld:

Sectarian strife tests Egypt’s post-Mubarak rulers

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(A soldier stands guard near the Saint Mary church which was set on fire during clashes between Muslims and Christians on Saturday in the heavily populated area of Imbaba in Cairo May 8, 2011/Asmaa Waguih)

Egypt's army rulers face a dilemma as a bolder stance adopted by Islamists in the post-Mubarak era is worsening sectarian tension and triggering demands for the kind of crackdown that made the former president so unpopular. Armed clashes between conservative Muslims and Coptic Christians left 12 dead in a Cairo suburb on Saturday, touching off angry protests by some of the capital's residents who called for the army to use an "iron fist" against the instigators.

from UK News:

Libya crisis could scupper British aircraft carriers once and for all

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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 FaithWorld:

Muslim Brotherhood treads cautiously in the new Egypt

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cairo sunset

(A girl waves an Egyptian flag at sunset in Cairo February 14, 2011 /Suhaib Salem)

The Muslim Brotherhood is treading cautiously in the new Egypt, assuring the military government and fellow Egyptians that it does not want power and trying to dispel fears about its political strength. The target of decades of state oppression, the Brotherhood wants to preserve the freedoms it is enjoying under the new military-led administration that took power from Hosni Mubarak.

“Bullet proof” Matt Croucher tells his story

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MattCrouchermedal

In 2008, as a Royal Marine with 40 Commando in Afghanistan, Matt Croucher threw himself on a booby-trapped grenade to bear the brunt of its blast in an effort to save the lives of three comrades who were with him on a covert operation behind enemy lines at night.

“It’s bonkers what goes through your mind when you’re about to die,” Croucher writes in his candid autobiography Bullet Proof, newly released in paperback by Random House. “All that crap about your life flashing before you, is just that, bollocks.”

from Tales from the Trail:

If healthcare wasn’t enough, Obama just picked another fight

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One thing is clear. President Barack Obama is not afraid of a fight.

He battled all last year with Republicans and some of his own Democrats trying to get healthcare reform through the political headwinds. OBAMA/

Now he's going to take on Republicans with trying to repeal the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gays serving in the military.

from UK News:

Should the BNP be able to use military imagery?

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griffinThis is a busy week for the British National Party (BNP).

Today it was warned to stop using military imagery in its campaign material. A group of former military leaders accused the BNP, which has used photographs of spitfire fighter planes and Winston Churchill, of hijacking Britain's history for their own "dubious ends."

The distinguished generals said this tarnished the reputation of the armed forces and called on them to "cease and desist."

The art of the dying general at 250 years old

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generalwolfe1- Carl Mollins is a Toronto-based journalist who has worked at the Toronto Daily Telegram, Reuters (in London), The Canadian Press news service (in Toronto, London, Ottawa, Washington, DC) and Maclean’s magazine (in Toronto and Washington, DC). The opinions expressed are his own. -

It was long ago, in 1761, when Pennsylvanian portrait artist Benjamin West moved east—across the Atlantic. Nine years later in England, he looked back west to produce a controversial but renowned portrayal of the death of British General James Wolfe during England’s seizure of Quebec from France 250 years ago, on September 13, 1759.

When is the wrong vehicle the right vehicle?

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Patrick Hennessey-Patrick Hennessey is the author of “The Junior Officers’ Reading Club: Killing Time and Fighting Wars.” The opinions expressed are his own.-

In the same week in which Major Sean Birchall became the 169th British service person to die in Afghanistan since the start of operations in 2001 (and perhaps more significantly, as is often unmentioned, the 164th serviceperson to die since the British moved into Helmand Province only three years ago), four families announced that they were planning to sue the Ministry of Defence over the deaths of loved ones in the lightly armoured “Snatch” Land Rover in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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