Any military tool that extends human reach or power, such as sword, gun, or missile is essentially equivalent. The ethical standing has not to do with the the nature of the weapon but rather the nature of the underlying conflict and the scaling and targeting of effort to avoid the injury of innocents. No weapons use is ethical if it advances evil ends. No end, no matter how good, justifies the avoidable injury of innocents.
Better yet, why don't we fight our wars virtually in video games? [/sarcasm]
Seriously, It's not hard to see that there is no purpose of robotic warfare by both sides with no threat to humans. It just adds a layer of fluff.
What compels the 'loser' of the robot war to acquiesce to the 'winner' if they are not threatened in any way? Sportsmanship?
Winner: "Hey, we blew up your robots so you have to do what we say!"
Losers: "Screw you guys! You cant stop us from (doing whatever it is that caused the conflict)!"
And thus the conflict remains unresolved.
I'd have to agree with iPan and say that pacifism is the most ethical path. Robotic warfare on both sides is even more nonsensical than regular warfare. A waste of money, time, and bots.
The most ethical path is pacifism.
Whether drones are involved or not is completely irrelevant to the fact that pacifism is ethically superior to any form of violence for any reason.
What both sides? Drone attacks kill civilians and singular military human targets, not opposing armies. The notion that war kills primarily soldiers on battlefields was never accurate. But in modern war it's ridiculous. Do peasants in the Sudan get their own BattleBots? Do protesters in Tahrir square? Where will both sides get these machines? What are the both sides anyway?
"Of course it is. Keeping human soldiers (on one side, at least) out of harm’s way is a positive thing."
Agreed. Everyone who wants to can see how war is here to stay for a few more decades; drones are a Faustian bargain tolerable for the duration.
To put it simply the idea that drones for war is irrational for we do not need war we can reason and make peace and try to become a whole people and collect all pieces of man, thus war is wrong since it pits members of the same species against each other in a horrible gruesome way. Adding autonomous machines to the mix is just a disaster for even more horrible outcomes can occur worse even than the ones humans have witnessed its history. For only atrocities come from war and war is only caused when humanity forgets its history forgets its gathered wisdom it’s gained throughout it slows but forward development. Once more war now is only a means of obtaining greed and resources that can be shared. To compound the issue of adding machines only perverts again the use of what a machine is anyway. Which is to assist humanity, but a machine made to assist in the destruction of another human or culture is insanity of the original definition of a machine. War in itself is a contradiction and thus adding to the collective wrong of this world. It’s a bad idea to have machines only get worse to add more destructive tech.
This is a short version of a paper I wrote now because this made me think.
One of the answers does not answer the question. The question is whether using drones against enemy soldiers is ethical, not what the best kind of war is under ideal circumstances. Its naive to assume all sides in a war have equal access to the infrastructure needed to field drones - a military industrial complex to build drones or access to trade for them, a ready supply of missiles and other armaments used by drones, or the rare minerals that go into their electronics or stealth capabilities.
The other issue is what happens if the drones on either or both sides are bypassed or destroyed. Do the human soldiers put their hands in the air and give up, because they've given up all other weapons? Is there an agreement prior to the engagement that the drones are the champions of both sides and if they are defeated that side will acquiesce to the requests of the other side, as armies often did in the medieval period. That would be great. Battles fought by stand-ins for military forces are by far the least destructive, least killing and also most resource-efficient. You could do this with chess games, paper-scissors-rock, StarCraft matches, champions, as well as drones. The problem is, today people, often on both sides, will say that their cause is just and warrants resorting to absolute war to achieve it - that allowing a conflict to be resolved by stand-ins is risks too much on too little. Instead, they would drain the earth's limited resources to produce vast arsenals of single-use missiles, tanks with absurdly low gas mileage, and sacrifice thousands of their fellows.
I would suggest that if we are going to fight wars that the use of Rock'm Sock'm Robots is probably the least damaging though still a waste of resources. Unfortunately I have to disagree with Hank, most modern wars include a component of genocide. You can't take over land effectively if there are people living there.
"Definitely not. Anything that makes warfare easier and cheaper is by definition unethical and immoral."
War is a horrible thing, is an archaic ideal, and the very notion is not postmodern. War is reductionistic and oppressive, any "improvement" is unethical and immoral.
The idea that war could be fought without involving human combatants is not valid in my view. It is suggested (implied) that the use of technological combatants would be one of the preferred methods (41.18% if I recall correctly).
My question is then why are combatants even engaging in conflict? What is the aim of the victor and what is the consequence of the vanquished? It would seem to me at least to be a given that war basically centers on economics, "you have something I want or some advantage over me so I am either going to take it from you or remove your ability to use it".
That folks is human vs. human. We've progressed from using sticks and rocks to missiles and drones but the antagonists remain - human beings. So neither side kills any soldiers in this science-fiction scenario because we used machines as the pawns in the game. Once the issue is settled between the belligerents what happens to the people who decided to take the military action? Human beings initiate the conflict and are clearly the targets of those actions.
Ethical War...there's a concept in itself that can be talked about. IMHO any possibility of that ceased to exist when the USA decided the Geneva Conventions were obsolete.
On the bright side, SkyNet is only 12% complete as of this date.
I voted for "War is evil but the best way to deal with it is to have autonomous robots on both sides" -- this seems absolutely obvious to me. No death to humans! Ideally, battles would be fought on neutral uninhabited turf, perhaps at sea or in Antarctica or Australian desert interior. Fully televised. I am being facetious here. Maybe in outer space? But really, the intent of war is rarely I believe, to kill. It is to sack, and loot, and conquer territory, and extract tribute, but there's no financial gain in actually killing the opponent. Ideally, of course, war should be ended, but perhaps moving it to robotic conflict only is an intelligent step.