2St. Augustine is generally attributed, 1600 years ago, with laying the foundations of ChristianJust War thought [Cook 04] and that Christianity helped humanize war by refraining fromunnecessary killing [Wells 96]. Augustine (as reported via Aquinas) noted that emotion canclearly cloud judgment in warfare:
The passion for inflicting harm, the cruel thirst for vengeance, an unpacific and relentless spirit, the fever of revolt, the lust of power, and suchlike things, all these arerightly condemned in war
[May et al. 05, p. 28].Fortunately, these potential failings of man need not be replicated in autonomous battlefieldrobots
.From the 19
Century on, nations have struggled to create laws of war based on the principles of Just War Theory [Wells 96, Walzer 77]. These laws speak to both
Jus in Bello
, which applieslimitations to the conduct of warfare, and
Jus ad Bellum
, which restricts the conditions required prior to entering into war, where both form a major part of the logical underpinnings of the JustWar tradition.The advent of autonomous robotics in the battlefield, as with any new technology, is primarilyconcerned with
Jus in Bello
, i.e., defining what constitutes the ethical use of these systemsduring conflict, given military necessity. There are many questions that remain unanswered andeven undebated within this context. At least two central principles are asserted from the Just War tradition: the principle of
of military objectives and combatants fromnon-combatants and the structures of civil society; and the principle of
of means,where acts of war should not yield damage disproportionate to the ends that justify their use. Non-combatant harm is considered only justifiable when it is truly collateral, i.e., indirect andunintended, even if foreseen. Combatants retain certain rights as well, e.g., once they havesurrendered and laid down their arms they assume the status of non-combatant and are no longer subject to attack.
Jus in Bello
also requires that agents must be held responsible for their actions[Fieser and Dowden 07] in war. This includes the consequences for obeying orders when theyare known to be immoral as well as the status of ignorance in warfare. These aspects also need to be addressed in the application of lethality by autonomous systems, and as we will see in Section2, are hotly debated by philosophers.The Laws of War (LOW), encoded in protocols such as the Geneva Conventions and Rules of Engagement (ROE), prescribe what is and what is not acceptable in the battlefield in both aglobal (standing ROE) and local (Supplemental ROE) context, The ROE are required to be fullycompliant with the laws of war. Defining these terms [DOD-02]:
Laws of War – That part of international law that regulates the conduct of armedhostilities.
Rules of Engagement - Directives issued by competent military authority that delineatethe circumstances and limitations under which United States Forces will initiate and/or continue combat engagement with other forces encountered.
That is not to say, however, they couldn’t be. Indeed the Navy (including myself) is already conducting researchin “Affect-Based Computing and Cognitive Models for Unmanned Vehicle Systems” [OSD 06], although clearly notdesigned for the condemned intentions stated by Augustine.