Wars are military conflicts between states and armed groups. In the future, combat operations will be increasingly dominated by machines and algorithms. Unmanned weapons systems are already changing the nature of warfare. At present, the development and deployment of these new technologies is not adequately covered by an international regulatory framework. We are thus facing a new era in security policy and the threat of a new arms race in digital warfare and automated weapons systems.
Parallel to this development, the security landscape has been evolving. The old balance of mutually assured destruction between NATO and the Soviet bloc has been replaced by asymmetric wars in which all sides are using unconventional methods of engagement. States are increasingly being confronted by non-state actors. Recent military operations have thus been characterized by a steadily mounting asymmetry of the conflict parties. At the same time, the rapid progress of digital technology is opening new possibilities of intervention and destabilization that are capable of paralyzing a state without a shot being fired. The start and end of a war would then no longer be clearly discernible, and the perpetrators of cyber warfare or drone attacks no longer easily identifiable.
At its 14th Annual Foreign Policy Conference, the Heinrich Böll Foundation sought to address the challenges posed to peace-oriented security policy by these new technologies. It evaluated the current state and perspectives of the new weapons systems, and explored the issue of containing them in international political and legal frameworks to prevent a new arms race and the escalation of conflicts. At present, life-or-death decisions are still made by humans, not drones. Nevertheless, the possibilities and desired limitations of new weapons systems must be debated before international law is overrun by the new technologies.
High-Tech Wars: Challenges to peace and security in times of drones, robots and digital warfare
Since the failure of the Bundeswehr’s controversial Euro Hawk project, Germany is now also experiencing a frank, public debate about drones. However, the discussion is still being shaped by day-to-day political considerations. The objective of the 14th Annual Foreign Policy Conference of the Heinrich Böll Foundation was to fill this gap. By Torsten Arndt. Read the report here
Combat Drones: Public international law and military uses
The former German Federal Defense Minister in early 2013 announced his intent to equip the Bundeswehr with remote-controlled combat drones. In light of the American “drone war,” this has caused political and international legal concerns. By Wolfgang Richter Read the article here
Arms control for armed uninhabited vehicles: an ethical issue
Arming uninhabited vehicles (UVs) is an increasing trend. Widespread deployment can bring dangers for arms-control agreements and international humanitarian law (IHL).A general prohibition of armed UVs would be best. If that is unattainable, several measures should be taken. By Jürgen Altmann
. Read the report here
Combat Drones – Killing Drones: A Plea against Flying Robots
Technological advances in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will require a reevaluation of military and industrial policy in the European context. Discussion is ongoing in regards to drone usage, but no debates have taken place in regards to the ethical implications of further automation of combat. A debate about moral responsibility in military development is long overdue and urgent. By Marcel Dickow and Hilmar Linnenkamp
. Read the paper here
We Need the Drone Debate - But do We Need the Drones?
After a long period of silence, the topic of unmanned drones has made it into public discourse in Germany. The Federal Defense Forces are attempting to procure armed drones, which has sparked a debate – and one less about the nature of a new weapons system than about the future conduct of military operations, their ethics, and public oversight. This drone debate is healthy, and must be conducted openly and in great depth. By Niklas Schörnig
. Read the article here
The Proliferation of Drones: Changes in size, intelligence reframe questions of use
The discussion about drones has been mostly confined to the United States and Israel – it is only now beginning in Germany as well. Already, there are 87 countries that utilize unmanned drone systems that can also be armed. It is time to think about potential limits in their deployment and proliferation, and possible global standards for their use. By Peter W. Singer
. Read the article here