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Lethal Autonomous Weapons and the End of Just War: Awakened Automata or Solemn Simulacra

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Technical Report

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For warfighting soldiers, sailors, Airmen, and marines, the Just War Theory embodies much of their code of conduct that helps to limit the damage accepted as these good men and women take action to confront the evils of the world. Even if not directly applied by warfighters, the rules of engagement and war that govern conduct in battle, the decisions to resort to violence made by war-waging political and senior military leaders, and campaign objectives and lines of effort selected by operational commanders conform to the tenets of Just War Theory and so have an indirect, though still meaningful, effect. The idea that, at some level, a responsible party can be held accountable for the morality of an action underpins Just War Theory. This liability may be moral or legal in nature. As technological advances allow humans to be farther from combat both in physical distance and the point of decision can this culpability still indeed be traced back to the operator, commander, programmer, or nation that employed the system Alternatively, must the system itself be found at fault for a violation If the machine can be held accountable, how does Just War Theory apply If the machine cannot, how would Just War Theory restrict or permit its use Having the reputation as both the preeminent military might and global moral compass, the United States must be prepared to employ emergent technologies in a moral and just manner or, at least, be ready to respond to nations that do not. Questions of morality and Just War Theory applicability arise in both the employment and response to autonomous technology. Understanding the justice of the autonomous systems Americas actions are normalizing as weapons is a critical component of the nations war preparation. This paper will seek to answer the question how does Just War Theory, specifically jus in bello, apply to lethal autonomous weapon systems

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  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
  • Countermeasures

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