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Interview – Emmanuel Goffi

Rise of the Drones, courtesy thierry ehrmann/flickr

This interview was originally published by E-International Relations on 21 February 2016.

Emmanuel Goffi is a specialist in military ethics and security studies. He is currently a research fellow at the Centre for Defence and Security Studies at the University of Manitoba (UofM), in Winnipeg, Canada, and has been an officer of the French Air Force (captain) for 22 years. He is also an instructor in political science at the Department of Political Studies at UofM and at the International College of Manitoba. Emmanuel lectured in International Relations, the Law of Armed Conflicts, and Ethics at the French Air Force Academy for five years before he was appointed as an analyst and research associate at the Center for Aerospace Strategic Studies in Paris for two years.

Emmanuel Goffi holds a PhD in Political Science/International Relations from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris-Centre de Recherche Internationales (Science Po-CERI). He is the author of Les armées françaises face à la morale : une réflexion au cœur des conflits modernes (Paris : L’Harmattan, 2011). He co-edited and contributed to an edited volume of more than 40 contributions about drones: Les drones aériens : passé, présent et avenir. Approche globale [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: past, present, and future. A global approach] (Paris: La Documentation française, coll. Stratégie aérospatiale, 2013). Emmanuel’s current researches focus on the ethical aspects of the dronization and robotization of the battlefield, and on the constructivist approach of security studies.

Where do you see the most exciting research/debates happening in your field?

I would say that the most exciting aspects regarding international relations and security studies are to be found in the philosophical perspective. Morality and ethics are growing concerns in political science. The evolution of conflicts, the rise of new actors, globalization, and new technologies, have slowly led to the obsolescence of international laws. Warfare and laws of armed conflicts are the perfect illustration of this. This is why ethics is becoming more and more important. When you cannot rely on formal legal norms you turn towards informal moral ones.

In this field of moral philosophy, warfare and the new forms of confrontations are endless topics. The use of drones and robots on the battlefield, the changes in the way we approach defense issues, the evolution in the sociology of the military are some of the most thrilling subjects to address. Besides, moral philosophy applied to political science opens doors to an infinite number of perspectives and offers an undreamt playground to free spirits. » More

Morgenthau’s Utilitarian Version of Realism

‘I want magic no realism’ on the street, courtesy Barnaby_S/flickr

This article was originally published by E-International Relations (E-IR) on 20 February 2016.

According to Max Weber, realism ‘recognizes the subjugation of morality’ to the ‘demands of [a] human nature’ in which the ‘insatiable lust for power’ is paramount (Weber in Smith 1982:1). This claim has led many—especially among liberal theorists—to label it as an amoral and bellicose doctrine (Molloy 2009:107). Yet while ‘inconsistency among realist theories’ (Smith 1982:12) may lend truth to claims of amorality and bellicosity among other strands of realism, this essay specifically examines the morality outlined in the realist works of Hans Morgenthau. It will argue that Morgenthau’s realist doctrine is neither amoral nor bellicose because it is informed by a set of utilitarian ethics that ‘rationally direct the irrationalities’ of human nature and aim to prevent major conflict (Niebuhr in Whitman 2011). The essay will begin by defining realist morality according to Morgenthau, focusing on ‘the evil of politics,’ the ‘moral precept of prudence,’ and ‘utilitarian ethics’ (1985:8). Though few critics dispute the presence of morals in Morgenthau’s realism, the essay will follow by addressing perceived flaws in his moral argument, as well as briefly examining the different moral assumptions made other strands of realist thought. The essay will conclude by restating the morals of ‘political ethics’ according to classical realism and end with a question concerning the significance of realist ethics to Weber’s ‘moral problem’ in International Relations (Smith 1982:28).

Hans Morgenthau is one of the most influential realist theorists of all time, and his arguments are fundamentally based in a ‘stern, utilitarian morality’ (Kaufman 2006:25); Morgenthau’s classical realism forms the basis for the argument put forth in this essay. According to critic Robert Kaufman, Morgenthau’s realism was developed as a ‘pessimistic critique of liberal utopianism,’ wary of the idealism of the inter-war years and intent on preventing another World War (2006:24). As such, Morgenthau puts forth a theory in which international relations are assumed to be at the mercy of human nature, self-interest, and an insatiable lust for power (1945:2). These factors, according to Morgenthau, are evidence that politics ‘falls within the domain of evil’ and thus, political ethics must be ‘the ethics of doing evil’ (1945:17). However, what seems a bleak and amoral outlook on world politics is redeemed by a moralist caveat: Though ‘the evil of politics is inescapable,’ by weighing the consequences of potential political action the ‘moral strategy of politics’ can be reduced to a choice among the least of all evils’ (Molloy 2009:99). Thus, despite his focus on power and successful political action, Morgenthau’s realism displays an inherent morality. Morgenthau’s realism is fundamentally concerned with mitigating the effects of a savage human nature on world order (1945:6).

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Proposal of a Dignity Scale for Sustainable Governance

Image: stokpic/Pixabay

This article was originally published by the Journal of Public Policy on 29 November, 2015.

In October 2005, two North African teenagers died of electrocution in one of the banlieues of Paris as they were running from the police through a dangerous power substation. An inquiry later established the teens were innocent, and the incident sparked some of the worst unrest seen in France over the past 40 years.  The riots brought about much debate over the tense relationship between immigrant youth and the state, the recurring problems of “fracture sociale,” and a perceived lack of social justice. Above all, the protests were an expression of acute feelings of alienation experienced by a large section of society. The banlieues have been a breeding ground for deep frustration, maintaining a distinctly poor and marginalized status for decades. Unemployment is common and 36% of the banlieu residents are estimated to live below the poverty line—three times the national average. » More

The Moral Code: How To Teach Robots Right and Wrong

“PackBot”, a battlefield robot used by the US military. Image: Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod/Wikimedia


This article was originally published by Foreign Affairs on 12 August 2015.

At the most recent International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, over 1,000 experts and researchers presented an open letter calling for a ban on offensive autonomous weapons. The letter, signed by Tesla’s Elon Musk, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Google DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis, and Professor Stephen Hawking, among others, warned of a “military artificial intelligence arms race.” Regardless of whether these campaigns to ban offensive autonomous weapons are successful, though, robotic technology will be increasingly widespread in many areas of military and economic life.

Over the years, robots have become smarter and more autonomous, but so far they still lack an essential feature: the capacity for moral reasoning. This limits their ability to make good decisions in complex situations. For example, a robot is not currently able to distinguish between combatants and noncombatants or to understand that enemies sometimes disguise themselves as civilians. » More

Values and Interests in EU Foreign Policy

European map with Ukraine in focus. Image: ClkerFreeVectorImages/Pixabay

Anyone remotely familiar with EU foreign policy will be no stranger to invocations of European values underpinning, and, indeed, driving, European external action. From policies on climate change and agriculture to trade to defence and security, the rhetoric generated by various EU bodies typically elucidates a “set of common values” that the respective policies promote or embody. A crucial nuance is that ‘values,’ which have been incorporated into the primary law of the European Union through the Lisbon Treaty, are juxtaposed to ‘interests.’  This juxtaposition often means that if and when the EU fails to live up to its much-touted values, it is charged with ‘hypocrisy.’  The inconvenient truth, however, is that like all actors, Europe has interests as well as values, and these are frequently at odds with each other across virtually every policy area. More often than not, interests, far from being ‘inspired’ by values, have proven insular, short-sighted, and at times downright mercenary. At the same time, it is naïve to expect Europe’s policymakers to pay more attention to the plight of Syrian refugees than domestic populations’ preoccupation with keeping their own welfare and prosperity undisturbed by crises engulfing much of the world outside the Continent.  The solution, it would then seem, lies in doing away with the gratuitous narrative emanating from Brussels that continues to raise unjustified expectations by placing values at the rhetorical heart of European foreign policy. » More

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