The Applied Ethics of Emerging Military and Security Technologies

The Applied Ethics of Emerging Military and Security Technologies

Edited by Braden R. Allenby

Routledge, New York, 2015, 530 pages

Book Review published on: June 16, 2017

According to The U.S. Army Operating Concept, future battlefields will be increasingly complex and our nation’s adversaries will present Army leaders with a wide range of problem sets meant to threaten U.S. interests and disrupt U.S. technological advantages. To some extent, this future battlefield is already being manifested by Russian backed forces operating in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. The use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), extensive application of information operations, and employment of cyberwarfare by Russian forces illustrate the changing nature of warfare. The introduction of these types of weapons demand an evaluation of their use and an understanding of the ethical considerations when such technologies bleed over into civilian society. For these reasons, The Applied Ethics of Emerging Military and Security Technologies is essential reading for those that will serve on the battlefields of the future.

This compendium of academic articles provides the military professional with a better understanding of the changing nature of modern warfare. Although it is one of eight books in an eight-part series titled The Library of Essays on the Ethics of Emerging Technologies, this particular collection focuses on technological advancements on the battlefield and the ethical dilemmas posed by utilizing such technologies. While edited in 2015, this book remains relevant to current military leaders as the articles lay the groundwork for how modern warfare has evolved in recent years.

In its introduction, the editor provides the reader with a basic understanding of applied ethics and the idea of “just war” theory held dear by most nation states. While most countries may adhere to certain codes of conduct regarding such innovations, nonstate actors will often use whatever is available in order to overcome the overmatch they face against superior foes. A deadly innovation meant to be used by nation states on a limited basis may be employed on a much more frequent basis by nonstate actors. Additionally, technological innovations meant for the field of battle could bleed over into the civilian sector where their use is not welcomed or can be easily manipulated for other purposes.

Overall, the articles in this collection are derived from a variety of well-respected academic and professional journals. Perhaps the most compelling piece in this collection is “Unrestricted Warfare” by Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui. In this article, the authors suggest that a nation state engaged in all-out warfare must be prepared to use every advantage to defeat its enemy, to include resources usually reserved for civilian use. Other articles in the book detail particular innovations that are finding their way to the modern battlefield, to include autonomous weapons systems, robotics, UAS, cyberwarfare, and the use of genomics and neuroscience engineering to develop the perfect warrior.

The modern battlefield will continue to change at a rapid pace and military professionals must be ready to fight and win in this complex environment. The employment of these new technologies will require military leaders to think deeply about the ethical applications of these weapons systems and their overall impact on mankind. The articles included in The Applied Ethics of Emerging Military and Security Technologies serve as a great primer to prepare military leaders for the battlefields of tomorrow.

Book Review written by: Lt. Col. James W. Welch, U.S. Army, Fort Benning, Georgia