The United States' positions on autonomous weapons
MetadataShow full item record
Fully autonomous weapons are weapons that are capable of autonomously selecting and attacking targets without being operated by a human. States are currently actively trying to develop these kind of weapons because they provide many military advantages. This severely worries NGO’s, scientists and scholars for several different reasons. Some point at the possible inability of fully autonomous weapons to comply with international humanitarian law. Others believe there will be an accountability gap for crimes committed by fully autonomous weapons during combat and another frequently raised concern is that these weapons will lower the threshold for war. These concerns lead to calls for a ban on fully autonomous weapons. But not everyone is worried about the development of fully autonomous weapons. There are also those who think that fully autonomous weapons might actually be better at complying with international humanitarian law than humans are. Others are against a ban because they do not believe it will be effective. We do not know which of the above scenarios will turn out to be true in the future. But talking about the possible ramifications of fully autonomous weapons before they are in use is important. This thesis aims to contribute to that conversation by studying the US’ , one of the most important stakeholders, positions regarding fully autonomous weapons. The three studied positions are the US’ diplomatic position as well as the position of the US’ military and US’ scholars. It will become clear what the underlying motives for these positions are, how they are influenced and what their implications are. Understanding these positions in such a way allows for an informed discussion on how to deal with fully autonomous weapons. The US’ diplomatic position is that the development of fully autonomous weapons should not be restricted because they can provide humanitarian benefits. This position is influenced by neorealistic desires for security. The US’ military position is mostly determined by the incredible military advantages that fully autonomous weapons provide. This results in a position that is effectively also unrestricting towards fully autonomous weapons and requests for increasingly larger budgets for the development of fully autonomous weapons. US’ scholars are able to base their opinions on more ideological beliefs which leads to more diversity in their positions, with some scholars advocating severe restrictions on fully autonomous weapons while others are in favour of an unrestrictive policy. The effect of these scholarly opinions is generally unsubstantial but could increase if scholars start writing shorter articles in newspapers, in addition to their research papers, that are easier and faster for policymakers to read. However, in the end, the effect of scholarly opinions on the US fully autonomous weapons policy will likely be very dependent on the fully autonomous weapons policies of US competitors.