The Decline of the Military Ethos and Profession of Arms Thumbnail

The Decline of the Military Ethos and Profession of Arms

An Argument against Autonomous Lethal Engagements

MICHAEL R. CONTRATTO Lieutenant Colonel, USAF
2012, 40 pages
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Cost: $0, AU Press Code: MP-62

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Throughout history many new weapon technologies have been introduced into combat prior to a full evaluation or understanding of the doctrinal, legal, and ethical implications of their use.1 Similarly, today’s battlespace is witnessing the introduction of numerous robotic systems to conduct many military missions. Thus far these robots still operate with humans directly "in the loop" of the decision process—especially when that loop is part of an offensive kill chain.2 The future battlespace, if we allow it, will be quite different. While the exact year is still in doubt, the capability for robotic autonomous lethal engagements will eventually exist and possibly much sooner than many may think.3 Placing worries of "Skynet" achieving consciousness and bands of "Terminators" running amok aside, as military science and sociology fuse, we truly find ourselves on the cusp of a "brave new world" in warfare.4

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