Super Soldiers and Technological Asymmetry

In J. Galliott & M. Lotz (eds.), Super Soldiers: The Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications. Ashgate. pp. 81-91 (2015)
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In this chapter I argue that emerging soldier enhancement technologies have the potential to transform the ethical character of the relationship between combatants, in conflicts between ‘Superpower’ militaries, with the ability to deploy such technologies, and technologically disadvantaged ‘Underdog’ militaries. The reasons for this relate to Paul Kahn’s claims about the paradox of riskless warfare. When an Underdog poses no threat to a Superpower, the standard just war theoretic justifications for the Superpower’s combatants using lethal violence against their opponents breaks down. Therefore, Kahn argues, combatants in that position must approach their opponents in an ethical guise relevantly similar to ‘policing’. I argue that the kind of disparities in risk and threat between opposing combatants that Kahn’s analysis posits, don’t obtain in the context of face-to-face combat, in the way they would need to in order to support his ethical conclusions about policing. But then I argue that soldier enhancement technologies have the potential to change this, in a way that reactivates the force of those conclusions.
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