Monday, June 25, 2012


Just cyberwar

As if in response to our last post. . . see prophilosophy's post here

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Ethics and Cyberspace

With the success of Stuxnet and now newer computer malware that are specifically designed with military targets in mind, it is time to start thinking seriously about ethical questions involving weapons that work in cyberspace. The US Air force has Cybercommand, Germany is now starting an offensive cyberwarefare unit, Russia has been alleged to employ cyberwarefare, and other nations like Israel, North Korea, the UK, and China have also been exploiting cyberspace for military purposes.

But what are the ethical issues involved? (Here are some practical issues.) I can think of a few off the top of my head. First are the traditional questions: How are civilians in enemy countries impacted by cyberwarefare and what responsibilities do countries have to only target military cyber infrastructure? Is this perhaps a kind of "warfare" where the discrimination standard breaks down? After all, chances are that few people will die as a direct consequence of a cyberattack on a country. So how to we weigh the double effect consequences?

Another question I was thinking about is how to deal with proliferation. There is little doubt that weapons proliferation has ethical repercussions. Cyber weapons can potentially be copied quickly and effectively and presumably with disastrous consequences. What ethical responsibilities to governments have to prevent this?

Also, is it really war, is it really a weapon, if individuals are not getting physically harmed? Is this the new kind of war people are talking about when they envision the future of war? Imagine immobilizing the enemy without harming anyone? Is it possible to win wars that way and if so, can this mean the end of war as we know it?

Finally, this all seems like an important step in moving war away from the nation state and putting non-state actors on the same level.

(H/T /.)

Friday, June 8, 2012

Ethics and veterans

I am generally a fan of Andrew J. Bacevich's writing. Here he reviews James Wright's Those Who Have Borne the Battle. The book talks about the relationship the United States has to those who have served and also who served in the first place.

I think that veterans pose a few important ethics questions worth exploring for military ethics. For one, we should think about the virtue of gratitude. Gratitude is often taken as a virtue. I would argue that in democratic countries that do not have drafts, veterans deserve their country's gratitude for being the people who were willing to put themselves at the disposal of the democracy. Regardless of whether or not you like how the democracy acted, they acted at the behest of the country, often without prior knowledge of what they would be asked to do, and often put themselves in more danger than most people would feel comfortable doing. (Pace an argument once made by Stephen Kershnar that said, among other things, that members of the military are adequately compensated, and thus do not deserve special gratitude.)

Of course, gratitude is not much. It is an emotion some people feel for some things, and only sometimes actually benefits the veteran. What does a country owe its vets? What attitude ought citizens have toward veterans? What obligations do veterans have?

Any thoughts?