Lethal Robots and the Conduct of Warfare

The military robot “Atlas”, developed by Boston Dynamics for DARPA . Image: DARPA/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by the ASPI Strategist on 5 December, 2014.

The use of lethal robots in conflict is inevitable. When it happens, it’ll create a significant shift in the ways of warfare. A discussion has already begun (see here and here) on how such capabilities might be developed and applied.

Robots in general are becoming smaller, smarter, cheaper and more ubiquitous. Lethal robots are becoming more deadly and discriminating. The degree of autonomy will be a key driver of a robot’s role in conflict and is likely to evolve in three generations; the semi-autonomous, the restricted-autonomous, and ultimately the fully-autonomous generation. » More

Mitchell Belfer on Small States and Security

The Persian Gulf. Image: Hégésippe Cormier/Wikimedia

Trying to define what, exactly, constitutes a ‘small state’ remains a matter of interpretation. The World Bank, for example, defines such a state as a country with a population under 1.5 million, while the United Nations’ Forum of Small States (FOSS) has over 100 (and often more populous) members. In today’s podcast, Mitchell A. Belfer explains why there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ definition of a small state. He also reveals 1) what inspired him to study the contributions that small states make to security; 2) why small states such as Bahrain are often good indicators of the security and geopolitical forces that shape a particular region; and 3) reveals which small states warrant greater attention on the international stage.


Mitchell A. Belfer is the founder and Head of the Department of International Relations and European Studies at Metropolitan University Prague, Czech Republic, and Editor in Chief of the Central European Journal of International and Security Studies (CEJISS).

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Mediation Perspectives: What is Mediation?

Pictured here are US Secretary of State John Kerry and Swiss Federation Council President Didier Burkhalter at the Geneva II conference on Syria. Image: Wikimedia

On 25 November 2014, the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, together with various German mediation support NGOs, organized a conference on peace mediation. The aims of the conference were to explore the role that Germany can play in this field and to raise the country’s profile as a conflict mediator. As part of the discussion, one of the working groups focused on the types of human resources and institutional structures needed for effective mediation and mediation support. In this context, the first question to arise was “what is mediation?” Indeed, only once this question is answered can the relevant resources and institutions be assembled to effectively provide the desired forms of ‘mediation.’ This implies that the first step for organizations seeking to expand their role as mediators is to be clear about what exactly they have in mind. » More

Minimum Criteria for Sustainable Global Governance

The globe. Image: geralt/Pixabay

Strong statist positions and a fixation on state sovereignty once inhibited progress toward more just and effective models of global governance. However, there can be no denying that globalization has not only led to the unprecedented transformation of our societies, but also the role that states play in the international system. Yet, even as states gradually share more responsibilities with corporations, sub-national entities and international organizations, their structural significance still remains indisputable – particularly when it comes to finding near-term solutions for better modes of global governance. This should result in a more equitable and representative international state system to which global governing structures will remain accountable. » More

Order and Change in Global Politics: Assessing the “Return of Geopolitics”

Hegel with Students. Image: Wikimedia

This article was originally published by e-International Relations on 4 November, 2014.

The unfolding global international predicament, with a crescendo of tensions in recent months, has prompted a more upfront reflection on the kind of international order currently prevalent and what future order appears as desirable.

Contours of the Debate

In a piece published by Foreign Affairs entitled “The Return of Geopolitics: the Revenge of the Revisionist Powers,” Walter R. Mead (Mead, 2014) has articulated the view that, after a long interval following the end of the Cold War, the post-historical condition described by Francis Fukuyama in his famous book The End of History and the Last Man (Fukuyama, 1992) may be over for good. That post-historical condition entailed the dissolution of all major ideological conflicts, and consequently of major geopolitical struggles for the control of the planet, as mankind stepped firmly and irreversibly on the path of liberal representative democracy and free market capitalism. Professor Mead argues that both Russia and China, the two large illiberal powers, are now “pushing back against the political settlement of the Cold War.” Consequently, a new confrontation between great powers is looming, in the pretty familiar fashion of conflict over land, sea lanes, the control of continental masses and possibly the oceans. Russia and China are depicted as revisionist powers, whose march towards the final stage of liberal democracy and capitalistic economy can be long and tortuous, while in the meantime “such figures as Putin still stride the world stage.” » More

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