Stone-Cold Robot Killers

John Pike of Global Security in today's Washington Post opinion section - Coming to the Battlefield: Stone-Cold Robot Killers.

Armed robotic aircraft soar in the skies above Pakistan, hurling death down on America's enemies in the war on terrorism. Soon -- years, not decades, from now -- American armed robots will patrol on the ground as well, fundamentally transforming the face of battle. Conventional war, even genocide, may be abolished by a robotic American Peace...

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Impossible. Batteries have a useful life, dirt and dust infiltrate everything, servos malfunction, artificial intelligence (AI) can only carry us so far, every piece of equipment has unforeseen failure modes, and someone two thousand miles away cannot discern the thoughts and intentions of the heart (as Gian mentions).

Simply not even nearly convincing. Fairy tales.


I agree. I find it very difficult to believe, among other things, that we will go to robotic weapons with no human in the loop. Some will, I suspect but the human rights crowd will scream loudly and barring unforeseen events, anyone who does will rapidly back off the idea.

My compooter is annoyingly smart but I can still outwit the durn thing. Plus, there's always the Tanker Bar I found on post -- or the ten pound sledge in the garage...


Correct on Marshall. Over the past 10-15 years there has been quality scholarship that disproves and lays bare the defects of Marshall's thesis.

Plus ask any combat vet from World War II (yourself included) about Marshall's thesis and they call bunk!

And for current proof that soldiers shoot in combat just read Even Wright's excellent book of the Iraq War "Generation Kill" or Nate Fick's "One Bullet Away."

I cant believe that after almost 7 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan folks still look to some magic bullet of technology to remove the friction from war. If we are in Afghanistan 20 years from now and considering the advance of technology that the author suggests will we have then sensors and systems that can look into mud huts and discern the intentions of human beings?

The fundamental nature of war has yet to be changed by technology. It still at its most basic level involves the clash of individuals, human beings in violence and it is from that clash that understanding of intentions, motivations, and actions are made. Can technology help, assist, make more efficient if employed properly the nature of war? Yes, but it can not replace it and therefore the thesis to this piece is just flat wrong.


Surprisingly, he repeats the S.L.A. Marshall myth that Americans in combat will not shoot. I thought that had been laid to rest long ago.

In my observation, it is indeed a myth. I never had a problem getting people to shoot -- the problems were getting them to shoot only on semi automatic and to stop shooting once they started...

Either the Marshall myth or the 'Trigger happy Americans' myth has to be incorrect. I'm pretty sure it's the Marshall model. :)