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?

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