• Defense Department,  Public Diplomacy,  Unmanned Warfare

    The Public Diplomacy of Drones

    Today’s article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “More Drones, Fewer Troops” looks at the policy behind the increasing use and reliance on drones, but it misses an essential point: unmanned warfare’s impact on public opinion and public diplomacy.  While the technical and budgetary advantages of unmanned systems are front and center, their impact on foreign policy are often an aside, usually in the context of meddlesome by-products of using “drones.” We have seen, if not acknowledged, the powerful impact of human intervention (e.g. SEAL Team Six) over the powerful impact of robots, either remote controlled or autonomous.  Leaving the issue of the public diplomacy of these activities on the…

  • Unmanned Warfare

    Robots as Strategic Corporals

    This week, the Complex Terrain Laboratory, or CTLab, hosted another of its brilliant online symposiums. The topic of this one is Peter W. Singer’s book Wired for War and robots in warfare. There are a lot of good posts over there to read. Go check them out. My first of at least two posts just went up: Robots as Strategic Corporals. The second post will look at justifying the robots based on what can be done according to Western notions which creates, counter intuitively, an engagement model that is too permissive and detrimental to the mission as a whole. Certain acts, justifiable under international law, could backfire if the information…

  • Events,  Unmanned Warfare

    Event: Online Symposium on P.W. Singer’s Wired For War

    Over at CTLab next week, I’ll be in an online discussion built around about Peter W. Singer’s outstanding book, Wired for War. Read the CTLab announcement: CTlab’s second symposium in its 2009 series starts next week, on Monday, 30 March, and will run for four days, until 2 April (or until participants run out of steam, which might take longer). The subject: Peter Singer’s new book, Wired For War: The Robotics Revolution and  Conflict in the 21st Century (Penguin Press: 2009). This is going to be an exciting booklab, on a work that’s been getting broad exposure, in an out of the blogosphere. Peter Singer, a Brookings Institution Senior Fellow…

  • Unmanned Warfare


    Check out David Axe’s video series on military robots at GOOD magazine. It’s a good overview for anyone interested in unmanned systems, autonomous and tele-operated. Note: would have liked if he mentioned other “robot” systems (by his implicit definition) such as Patriot to AEGIS that had notable accidental kills: an allied pilot and a civilian airliner, respectively. See also my Unintended Consequences on issues David doesn’t delve into. See also Peter’s forthcoming Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century Also, check out a video of a robotic policeman (previously linked to here) Think the U.S. is the only country with robots? Lots of other countries…

  • Unmanned Warfare

    Doolittle’s spies: Pigeons, Squirrels… time again for Project ACORN

    In July 2007 it was spying squirrels from Israel. Now, it’s pigeon spies: Iranian security forces have apprehended a pair of "spy pigeons," not far from one of the country’s nuclear processing plants. If local media reports are to be believed, that is. One of the pigeons was caught near a rose water production plant in the city of Kashan, down the road from the Natanz uranium enrichment facility.  It had "a wired rod" and "invisible threads… fixed to its body," an unnamed source tells the Etemad Melli newspaper. A second, black pigeon was nabbed earlier in the month. … Time once again for Project ACORN, the Autonomous Coordinated Organic…

  • Unmanned Warfare

    Robots on the Radio: interviews with Arkin, Asaro, and Armstrong on warbots

    In the first of a two part program broadcast in England, Dr. Noel Sharkey interviews Dr. Ron Arkin, Dr. Peter Asaro and me on his Sound of Science program.  Stream or download the interview from England here.  (Note: two minutes of station promotion precedes the discussion.)  The interview series looks at the ethics issues of using military robots that are allowed to apply lethal force on their own terms, the Laws of War and the international laws on discrimination, as well as their role in war. This first episode includes: Dr. Ron Arkin, Regents’ Professor, College of Computing, Georgia Tech about some of the dangers facing us in the near-future…

  • Psychological Struggle,  Public Diplomacy,  Unmanned Warfare

    The Strategic Communication of Unmanned Warfare

    Modern conflict is increasingly a struggle for strategic influence above territory.  This struggle is, at its essence, a battle over perceptions and narratives within a psychological terrain under the influence of local and global pressures.  One of the unspoken lessons embedded in the Counterinsurgency Manual (FM3-24) is that we risk strategic success relying on a lawyerly conduct of war that rests on finely tuned arguments of why and why not.  When too much defense and too much offense can be detrimental, we must consider the impact of our actions, the information effects.  The propaganda of the deed must match the propaganda of the word. As Giulio Douhet wrote in 1928,…

  • In the News,  Psychological Struggle,  Unmanned Warfare

    Article: Combat Robots and Perception Management

    Robots will figure prominently in the future of warfare, whether we like it or not. They will provide perimeter security, logistics, surveillance, explosive ordinance disposal, and more because they fit strategic, operational, and tactical requirements for both the irregular and “traditional” warfare of the future. While American policymakers have finally realized that the so-called “war on terror” is a war of ideas and a war of information, virtually all reports on unmanned systems ignore the substantial impact that “warbots” will have on strategic communications, from public diplomacy to psychological operations. It is imperative that the U.S. military and civilian leadership discuss, anticipate, and plan for each robot to be a…

  • Unmanned Warfare

    ACORN recon member taken down

    Armchair Generalist and CKR both report the fratricide of an ACORN recon agent.  See below the fold if you’re not familiar with the Autonomous Coordinated Organic Reconnaissance Network (ACORN).