Tue May 2nd, 2006 at 11:01:01 PM EST
Technological developments in the works will make the application of military force by rich democracies far easier. Some have argued that more boots on the ground would have enabled the US to stabilize/subjugate Iraq, and to do so with far less bloodshed than endless bombing campaigns. But soldiers are scarce and the prospect of dead soldiers discourages political leaders from deploying troops.
There is an expensive, experimental, clunky technology that will mature into machines that loosen these constraints. Now in prototype are "robot troops" -- actually, machines directed remotely by a person, with no intelligence needed in the box. Note gun:
BBC News: US plans 'robot troops' for Iraq
GlobalSecurity.org: TALON Small Mobile Robot
These telefighters also come equipped with loudspeakers to shout threats and commands. The system could, I suppose, shout a set of phrases in Arabic, directed by a few keystrokes by a monoglot operator. Understanding pleas for mercy presents a greater technical challenge.
Eventually, legged robots will be agile. Here is a spooky video of a gasoline-powered prototype:
The larger, more expensive telefighters will surely be aided by smaller mobile machines, like the one shown in the linked video:
All of these machines can in turn be supported by lower-cost mobile and stationary surveillance devices. These (again, backed by human eyes) could identify targets and to help track down the brave soul who disables a telefighter.
The eventual prospect is abundant, low-cost eyes and guns on the ground, guided by unkillable soldiers working in a "remote-control unit with a Gameboy-style controller and virtual-reality goggles". In air conditioned, rooms, no doubt. Why, with good high-bandwidth links flabby, part-time soldiers could telecommute from home!
These developments, among others, will create growing temptations for the use and abuse of military power. Telefighters with non-lethal weapons will make the projection of power even more palatable.
Welcome to the 21st century. May I encourage a greater focus on anticipating technological developments?
PhysOrg.com: Warbots to Replace Human Soldiers?
CNN: The new breed of soldier: Robots with guns
Telegraph: US to develop robot soldiers for safer wars - Yes, "safer wars"
New York Times: New Model Army Soldier Rolls Closer to Battle