Belmont Club

Wouldn't you know it?

Dateline Middle East:

JERUSALEM (CNN) — Militants fired six rockets into southern Israel and exchanged gunfire with troops in northern Gaza Sunday, hours after Israel declared a unilateral cease-fire in the Palestinian territory, an Israeli spokesman said.

The Qassam rockets were fired into Sderot at 9 a.m. — seven hours after Israel’s cease-fire went into effect. The rockets did not injure anyone, and Israeli aircrafts destroyed the rocket launcher soon afterward, an Israeli military spokesman said.


And Olmert says, “we reserve right to renew Gaza op if attacks don’t stop”. At “war” again? No problem. Let’s arrange another ceasefire. It’s called the Peace Process. And this is the way it’s going to be for the rest of your life.

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The Woodrow Wilson Quarterly has a long piece about Robots At War.  It raises interesting points about how much “choice” we can delegate to automata. The key problem is that lethal machinery can make irreversible mistakes without a man in the loop. The catch is that we may actually make more mistakes with a man in the loop.

At another level the article raises the question of whether humanity — or at least one side of a conflict — ought to be allowed to conduct war without casualties. It quotes General Robert E. Lee’s cautionary observation that “it is good that we find war so horrible, or else we would become fond of it.” The implication is that the ability to conduct warfare de luxe will make countries like the United States too aggressive. It is the sheer power of America that is cited as the reason to cut it down to size. An America powerful enough to wage war entirely with automata, some will argue, is an America that does not morally deserve to exist.

It may be that the advent of practical battlefield robotics will make it harder, rather than easier for the more technologically advanced country to strike back. It is already being argued — in the case of Israel at least — that because it’s weapons are so much more effective than Hamas’ that it should just sit there and take it.


Maybe the 21st century version of Robert E. Lee’s adage is that “it is well that peace process is so unatainable or people might actually think we don’t want it.”  Maybe there is no difference in diplomacy between leaving a man in the loop and removing him altogether. Who can tell the difference?  One day we might just solve all international conflicts problem by forswearing robots and giving politicians dueling pistols in a room 20 paces wide. That would be both a vote for robotic warfare while simultaneously keeping men in the loop.

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