Why the Next Fighter Will Be Manned, and the One after That

An F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. Image: skeeze/Pixabay

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 5 August, 2015.

Sometimes a technology is so awe-inspiring that the imagination runs away with it — often far, far away from reality. Robots are like that. A lot of big and ultimately unfulfilled promises were made in robotics early on, based on preliminary successes.

– Daniel H. Wilson

The F-35 should be, and almost certainly will be, the last manned strike fighter aircraft the Department of the Navy will ever buy or fly.

– Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy » More

Why Don’t Defense Contractors Do Cyber?

Cyber security – why are America’s big contractors departing the field? Image: Ivan David Gomez Arce/Flickr

This article was originally published by the Atlantic Council on 1 August, 2015.

Going on eight years now, Raytheon has been mounting a strategic campaign in cyber security. This past April, the company spent $1.7 billion on Austin-based Websense, the 13th cyber business it has purchased since October 2007 (Defense Mergers & Acquisitions Daily, 20 April 2015). In Forbes, defense industry booster Loren Thompson called the transaction “bold”—the value roughly matched that of the 12 preceding deals. That pattern suggests that Raytheon has been learning along the way how to build a successful business. More recent evidence was Raytheon’s selection this month as a finalist in DARPA’s Cyber Grand Challenge, in which some of the top teams in the US have been working to create self-healing code. As Byron Callan of Capital Alpha Partners wrote, that alone “suggests it’s doing something right,” whatever misgivings investors and their analysts may have had about Raytheon’s long-running strategy. » More

The Trouble with Japan’s New Security Bills

Flag Emblem on a Japanese Military Uniform. Image: Koalorka/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the East Asia Forum on 3 August, 2015.

The debate over Japan’s new security bills, which seek to overhaul post-war defence policies, has shifted to the upper house and the streets, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe presses on to secure their passage into legislation. On 16 July the lower house passed the package of bills in a vote that was boycotted by opposition parties as tens of thousands protested outside the Diet.

Abe has extended the parliamentary sitting by three months to secure the outcome before he faces re-election to the presidency of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and therefore the prime ministership. He rammed the bills through the lower house in the knowledge that, even should the House of Councillors reject them, ultimate passage of the bills would be secured after a 60 day reconsideration and re-passage with a two-thirds majority through the House of Representatives. So, with enactment of the unpopular proposals almost guaranteed even if all of the opposition parties band together to block them in the upper house, why is the Abe government in trouble over the issue? » More

History is the Key to Making Sense of Nuclear Weapons

“Distant Early Warning Line” for a Soviet attack. Image: wikimedia

This article was originally published by The Conversation on 21 July, 2015.

In the early days of his first term, US president Barack Obama gave a speech in Prague in which he called for a world without nuclear weapons. His argument was based on a risk assessment:

In a strange turn of history, the threat of global nuclear war has gone down, but the risk of nuclear attack has gone up. More nations have acquired these weapons. Testing has continued. Black market trade in nuclear secrets abound. The technology to build the bomb has spread. Terrorists are determined to buy, build or steal one.

Even leaving aside the recent historic deal with Iran, this is a problematic interpretation. It ignores the important historical context. As far as the risk of nuclear weapons is concerned, there is no fundamental difference between the Cold War and today’s world. Research has found that terrorist groups are not too keen to acquire nuclear devices. Most of the countries that Western societies would regard as especially risky today (such as Iran and North Korea, Pakistan and India) already began their nuclear programmes during the Cold War. Moreover, history has shown that what matters in terms of risk is not whether or not a country has nuclear weapons: it’s what it intends to do with them. And that we often don’t exactly know. » More

Law, Legitimacy and Morality of Warfare: A Conversation about ‘Legitimate Targets? Social Construction, International Law and US Bombing’

Air and Marine officers control and watch images taken by Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Image: Gerald Nino/Wikimedia

This book review was originally published by Politics in Spires on 19 July, 2015.

In the following conversation concerning her recent publication, Dr. Janina Dill, Departmental Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Oxford, navigates a clear-cut path through concepts of International Law (IL), legitimacy and morality in warfare. From a theoretical perspective, she explains the relationship between constructivism, IL and international relations and highlights how our understanding of this relationship may be better informed through new concepts such as ”behavioural relevance” and “normative success”. From a practical perspective, she examines the historical shift in the conduct of warfare and the use of drone warfare by the United States. In response to Brett Rosenberg’s questions, Dr. Dill contemplates whether there are in fact legitimate targets in war. » More

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