Wednesday, April 17, 2013

forthcoming papers on military ethics

Two forthcoming papers on military ethics from the journal Criminal Law and Philosophy (the first looks particularly interesting): Youngjae Lee: "Military veterans, culpability, and blame" and Adil Ahmed Haque: "Law and morality at war."  

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Fabre's review of Kam

Cecile Fabre reviews F. M. Kam's The Moral Target: Aiming at Right Conduct in War and Other Conflicts in NDPR

Monday, April 15, 2013

Lukewarm war?

We all know what a cold war is, a war that is ongoing, but not fought kinetically by combatants. A hot war is a war that is fought kinetically by combatants. Apparently there are warm wars too, which involve both sides mobilizing forces, but not actually engaging in battle.

Is there a term for a war that is fought completely by machines with massive losses of machinery, technology  and weapons systems, but has no human casualties or impact on the lives of civilians? Imagine a war for example where two countries sent their entire fleet of weapons on autonomous, semi-autonomous, or remote controlled weapons systems into the lower reaches of the Earth's atmosphere. There and a massive war was fought and the end of which the losing country was essentially left without any weapons or ability to defend their borders. They used up all their firepower. Or more realistically, they both sent their weapons on wheeled vehicles where a war was fought (like a robot war) at the end of which the losing side had no defenses on its border. The winning side marched in and declared that they were now in control of the loser's territory.

Presumably this is not a kind of war that only exists in the science fiction of the distant future or of a galaxy long long ago and far far away. There have been movies made about this scenario. But are there any relevant ethical questions? For one, I would think, there are no more concerns of jus in bello. After all if we are only breaking each others' toys, there are hardly bad ways to fight. But are the jus ad bellum issues different?

I suppose the question I am asking is what happens to military ethics when it is separated from the ethics of killing entirely. Is this William James' dream of The Moral Equivalent of War come true? Is this war? Is this the future of war?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A small gripe

Michael Howard, I am sure is a competent person, who writes competent books. His review here struck me as eminently competent too. But in his first paragraph he refers to an "enlisted cadet." What the heck is an enlisted cadet? I think I know what he means, but now I am also pretty sure he has little experience with actual enlisted people or actual cadets. (I know, technically, there are a few enlisted cadets, i.e. cadets who happen to be enlisted already, but they are special cases, and I am sure Howard doesn't get this.)

These mistakes are telling. They say that the historians, philosophers, political scientists, and others who are tasked with understanding all sorts of things about the military do poor jobs. Moreover, they subtly reinforce the beliefs of people who do understand the inner workings of the military that military scholars are too removed from the military to be saying anything useful to them.  

So scholars: Get your facts straight before you write about some topic.