Robot Warriors : Why the Western investment into military robots might backfire

Schörnig, Niklas


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Dokumentart: Bericht / Forschungsbericht / Abhandlung
Institut: HSFK-Hessische Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung
Schriftenreihe: PRIF reports
Bandnummer: 100
ISBN: 978-3-942532-16-7
Sprache: Englisch
Erstellungsjahr: 2010
Publikationsdatum: 23.10.2011
Originalveröffentlichung: (2010)
SWD-Schlagwörter: Drohne <Flugkörper> , Militärtechnik , Unbemanntes Flugzeug , Kontrolle
DDC-Sachgruppe: Politik
BK - Basisklassifikation: 89.77 (Rüstungspolitik)
Sondersammelgebiete: 3.6 Politik und Friedensforschung

Kurzfassung auf Englisch:

Since the turn of the millennium, when Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and robots first began to gain special attention in the US military, a veritable boom of robotization has ensued. Currently, more than 45 states are developing UAVs or already have them, and interest continues to grow. For drones are especially suited to carry out tasks that are dirty, dull, or dangerous, and can complement the capabilities of any of the world’s armies in interesting ways. Two trends are especially noticeable: The first is the trend to weaponize unmanned platforms and thus to achieve a force multiplier that makes coordination between reconnaissance and shooter obsolete. The second is the trend towards greater autonomy of the system, i.e., away from remote piloting towards remote control of systems that increasingly act without human assistance. Although all countries worldwide have an interest in drones, they are particularly tempting for the Western states. This is because drones and robots are exceptionally suitable for minimizing losses among one’s own troops by effectively replacing soldiers on the battlefield. Especially against the background of increasing concern in Western public opinion over growing casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, drones appear to be the “weapon of choice” when it comes to maintaining the “conductibility” of military campaigns. Accordingly, Western states are particularly involved in the development and acquisition of drone technology. At the same time, the increasing use and proliferation of drones also creates problems: For instance, the growing numbers of drones strikes conducted mainly by the CIA in the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan have caused problems under international law and given rise to considerable disagreement among experts in the assessment of the strikes. Also, the increasing proliferation of drones has a destabilizing effect that should not be underestimated, and it is not difficult to come up with scenarios where possession of drones significantly lowers the inhibition threshold to the use of force involving these platforms. Lastly, there are also ethical concerns, especially when the two trends of arming and automating UAVs become increasingly intertwined. For who ultimately carries responsibility if an automated drone “decides” without human intervention to kill humans? All of these problems and potential dangers indicate the necessity of regulating the increasingly unchecked build-up of UAV armaments by means of arms control policy. It is questionable, however, whether arms control can be enforced if the states that have so far been the strongest advocates of international arms control, such as the Federal Republic of Germany, are currently jumping on the drone bandwagon instead of trying to slow it down. It is therefore important to create an awareness of the necessity of voluntary arms limitation before the current technological advantage enjoyed by the West melts away and the Western countries can no longer call the shots when it comes to initiating arms control efforts.

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