Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Philosophical questions about the IDF

Moti Mizrahi has a recent series of posts here, here, here, here, here, and here that are dedicated to questions about military ethics, largely addressing the Israeli Defense Forces. The questions range from the right to refuse the draft to testing vaccines on soldiers. All interesting.  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Forthcoming books

I noticed two forthcoming books by authors of blogs I read that might interest some of the readers of this blog: The Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Perspectives on Violence, Homicide, and War, edited by Todd K. Shackelford and Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford and from PEA soup Cecile Fabre's Cosmopolitan War.

The Moral Case for Drones?

The New York times ran a piece the other day on the moral case for drone attacks. The piece is not all that sophisticated or interesting. It is mostly boring because they are defending (or at least quoting people who are defending) drone warfare.

However, on closer inspection, what they are actually defending is the moral preference of a drone attack on a target to an attack on the same target by an assassination team. So the article is not saying anything about the ethics of assassination, but rather it is saying that if you will assassinate someone, it is morally preferable that you do it by remote control because you minimize certain kinds of risks.


The article barely mentions the morally important points relating to the fact that with drones it is now far easier to actually carry out these assassinations, making them more common, and now a policy tool of the Obama administration. All that is not to say that there is anything wrong with such attacks, but rather to say that The Times discusses the banal questions and glosses over the important ones. Any increase in precision is good, both militarily and I would say morally. But that is not where the drone controversy is in play. No one ever seriously suggested that drones are evil because they are more precise. People who dislike drones on moral grounds dislike them because they now make it possible to assassinate targets with relative ease and fewer repercussions.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Training ethics

The New York times raises an interesting ethics question. Are there real moral problems "practicing" on unwitting civilians if it has no real impact on their lives? (This question has real repercussions for my line of work too.)

In the story, drones are "tracking" civilian cars, presumably in the US, simply to give the drone pilots practice in tracking things. If my car was being tracked just so someone can practice looking at me from 20,000 feet, I'd certainly feel uncomfortable. And what if the US Air Force discovered something they didn't like, would they act on it? Does that violate federal surveillance laws? What if the drone happened upon a drug deal or something worse? Does practicing on unwitting american violate the Posse Comitatus Act?

Secondly (and not mentioned by the story), what if the Air Force practiced on foreigners? Would that make a difference? Would if violate the sovereignty of that country? If some other country was doing it to the US, I am sure we'd freak out. Is it any different than observing random strangers in some foreign country with a satellite? Is that legal?

Cyberattacks and JWT

How does Just War Theory apply to cyberattacks? A forthcoming paper by Leonard Kahn has a discussion. 

Monday, July 2, 2012


It has been suggested that an invasive insect has been introduced into California to kill the eucalyptus trees as a biological weapon. I am personally skeptical, but if true, this is an interesting sort of terrorism. It seeks to attack a species of tree that is mostly used for shade. If it is terror, its will succeed by annoying many Californians. It is hard to even take credit for such a thing and to what end? I suppose destroying a bit of ecosystem could be a terrorist's goal. 

With new weapons come new questions. Anything worth thinking about here?

(I wonder if this is some kind of revenge for this Eucalyptus tale.)

(H/T /.)