Home Technology Versus Conscription

Technology Versus Conscription

At a time when numbers in universal conscription in to the military throughout the world is dropping, comparing the voluntary army of a country to the mercenary forces of ancient kingdoms, where many a times the system of citizen militia was followed,is perhaps not a good idea. The question of universal conscription for the professional military to tackle the complex and growing cultural gap between the civilian society and the professionalised military has made the latter inadequately transparent for a democratic society. Furthermore, the field of warfare has also seen the introduction of unmanned autonomous and semi-autonomous war-fighting machines, like Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) into the battle ground, which some allege, might have increased the possibility of lowering the threshold of conflict.

Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA),has opened ground for a more conscious decision-making system in to the deployment of forces.Technologies can be turned further advantageous by the gradual removal of military personnel from the ground-level action. The introduction of newer military and security technologies, doctrines and strategies like autonomous and remote controlled vehicles and robots, satellite imaging etc. have brought the current defence arena up to the task of updating their respective countries’ security departments. Additionally, this also has great potential in reducing war casualties on both sides and need not be seen as raising the potential of making military action less politically risky.

At the same time, the fast changing pace and trends of the industrial revolution has made way for a change of hands from the humans to that of the machines too, if not fully, at least to a great extent. Unmanned Vehicles like drones, for example, and robotic technology use global-positioning systems (GPS) and complicated control mechanisms to deliver them accurately to a target. The selection of a target, the determination of its location and the risks involved, are all established by human agents who control the weapons system. Such armed systems are dependent on responsible human decisions as to when it is appropriately used.In a hypothetical situation, for instance, in the movie Pacific Rim, soldiers inside a Jaeger, fight the alien Kaijus with a huge support system which is stationed at a safe zone, an equivalent of the Trojan Horse. The idea of the Robocop franchise, another Hollywood enterprise, is based on similar lines. 

Brad Allenby and Mark Hagerott write about the political benefits of universal conscription, thereby widely spreading the risks associated with military activity and thus making decisions about the deployment of forces much more debatable.However, this piece would like to assert that firstly, even with the introduction of autonomous technologies, a just war could be fought without making these machines influence the choice of an unwilling country to go to war and threaten the sovereignty of another country. Secondly, many fear the emergence of the autonomous killing machines themselves, like robotic soldiers.But these technologies when used in battle need not violate the just war standards of jus in bello and made to prey on innocent civilians.They in fact can be made better and used with better precision in counter-force conflicts.

Besides, there is indication that even UAV pilots, despite being physically distant from combat, can still suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).Universal conscription would only spread the risk of combat injury or collateral deaths across a broader and more diverse population.What this piece intends to conclude is that uniform conscription is not essential in bringing in a greater consciousness against going to war and the deputation of UAVs and other robotic technologies in the battlefield hence, will not necessarily increase the chances of recurring conflicts, as rational nations desire to defend themselves without resorting to bloodshed.

The Author is Research Scholar at School of International Studies,Jawaharlal Nehru University.Views expressed are personal.






Adam Briggle, Katinka Waelbers, and Philip Brey, Current Issues in Computing and Philosophy, Vol. 175.Ios Press, 2008.

Brad Allenby and Mark Hagerott, "Universal Conscription as Technology Policy", Issues in Science and Technology, Vol. 30, No.2, 2014, pp. 41.

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Shayesta Ahmed

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