A few weeks back, I posted a story about the USMC getting ready to fight wars with robots. It's likely the first few steps towards a Terminatoresque future...but now some calmer heads are questioning it.
While fighting wars with robots sounds like a better idea than sending people to do it, it perhaps could increase the likelihood of such events, since there will be fewer human casualties among the fighting forces. (Non-combatants will always suffer.)
It makes for an interesting thought exercise at the moment, though.
Killer AI has long been the source of science fiction speculation. "The Terminator" and "WarGames" movies were cautionary warnings of such weapons out of human control. In one famous "Star Trek" episode, AI is allowed to control the starship Enterprise in a military exercise and causes death and destruction until Capt. Kirk and his crew regain command. Until now, those kinds of issues were speculative. Today, technical advances are forcing us to address them for real.
Western nations, particularly the United States, have shown reluctance to allow AI to operate independently on the battlefield absent adult human supervision. However, that might change if an opponent shows a decided tactical and operational advantage to the use of AI. There is little doubt that AI can make decisions faster than human operators, but the question remains whether those decisions will be better?
Osama bin Laden's 2001 escape from the Tora Bora mountains in Afghanistan was largely blamed on the ponderous decision-making process in U.S. Central Command's targeting cell, where a committee of officers failed to agree to take a shot until the intended target had disappeared into its caves. The Marine Corps' Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities (CETO) undertook an experiment to examine whether a simulated AI decision process might improve the targeting problem. Two teams were given an identical set of 20 targeting problems simulating a Predator unmanned aircraft armed with Hellfire missiles. The problems ranged from simple to very complex. Some involved civilians intermixed with hostile enemy fighters.
The first team was a human targeting cell comprising intelligence personnel, an operational lawyer and a public affairs specialist, and led by an experienced operations officer -- similar to the decision-making group in the Tora Bora situation. The second team assumed that the Predator had shoot or don't shoot decision-making AI aboard. The single human simulating the AI had a strict set of criteria on which to base decisions, simulating computer programming. The results were very interesting. Not surprisingly, the AI simulation made decisions faster than the targeting team, but both made the wrong decision about 20% of the time. The situations where the two went wrong generally differed but, as in actual combat, neither was immune to the fog of war.
The big difference here was accountability. The human team could be held responsible for its decisions, and it generally erred on the side of safety when innocent civilians appeared to be present. The AI was less constrained and was required to act strictly within the limits of the programming instructions. In one case, it fired into a street awning under which a group of armed insurgents had taken cover, killing a group of shoppers in a simulated souk. Situations such as this raise the question of who would be held responsible for the deaths. Would it be the person or persons who programmed the AI? Would it be the manufacturer? We could always decommission the aircraft, but what would that solve?
The real issue here remains moral. Except for the case of robot-on-robot combat, using AI will require the robot to decide to take human lives. As mentioned previously, our potential opponents will likely not be deterred by moral or legal concerns, and it is possible this could give them a distinctive tactical edge.One of those future wars may very well be with China -
so naturally we're looking at that part of the world again. My ancestral homeland has a new president that isn't batshit crazy, despite having the name "Marcos". With relations between the US and the Archipelago a little more normal these days, naturally we're looking to expand our military presence. It's an agreement we made with the current President's father back in 1951.
MANILA, Philippines -- The United States is seeking an expansion of its military presence in the Philippines under a 2014 defense pact, U.S. and Philippine officials said, one of the initiatives Vice President Kamala Harris launched Monday during her visit to America’s oldest treaty ally in Asia.
Harries also reaffirmed Washington’s commitment to defend the Philippines under the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty in talks with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. at the presidential palace in Manila.
The high-level assurance came a day after China’s coast guard forcibly seized Chinese rocket debris that Filipino navy personnel found and were towing to a Philippines-occupied island in the disputed South China Sea. China, the Philippines and four other governments are locked in increasingly tense territorial disputes in the strategic waterway.
“An armed attack on the Philippines armed forces, public vessels, or aircraft in the South China Sea would invoke U.S. Mutual Defense commitments,” Harris told Marcos Jr. “And that is an unwavering commitment that we have to the Philippines.”
Marcos Jr. thanked Harris. He said that given the upheavals in the region and beyond, “this partnership becomes even more important.”
On Tuesday, Harris flies to the western Philippine island province of Palawan, which faces the South China Sea, to showcase the level of concern America has for keeping the busy waterway open for commerce and navigation and to assure allies like the Philippines.
China’s increasingly aggressive actions to fortify its claims to most of the busy waterway have alarmed smaller claimant nations. The U.S. has been helping strengthen the Philippine coast guard, which said it would welcome Harris aboard one of its biggest patrol ships moored in Palawan.
Harris and her delegation also announced a range of U.S. assistance and initiatives to help the Philippines deal with climate change and looming food and energy crises, including talks on a proposed agreement that would provide the legal basis for U.S. exports of nuclear equipment and material for energy to the Philippines.
A former American colony, the Philippines used to host one of the largest U.S. Navy and Air Force bases outside the American mainland. The bases were shut down in the early 1990s after the Philippine Senate rejected an extension, but American forces returned for large-scale combat exercises with Filipino troops under a 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement.We'll finish up today with a story from the ongoing hot war in Ukraine. The former and formerly-feared Red Army (Krasnaya Armiya) is a shell of its former self - and some Western observers are speculating that Russia's failure to transition to an All Volunteer Force (AVF) planted the seeds for the current disaster on the steppes.
Larry Korb is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a former assistant secretary of defense and retired Navy captain.
In my formal presentation, I made six main observations. First, I pointed out that, even with a draft, many U.S. political and military elites, including several who became president, were able to avoid service in the war in Vietnam and paid no political price for it, even though the less fortunate or less well connected men who took their places sacrificed and suffered -- making up a block of the roughly 58,000 deaths, more than 150,000 wounded and 1,600 missing.
Second, trying to draft people to fight in an unnecessary and unpopular war of choice, as we did in Vietnam, would lead them to take other steps to avoid conscription, even if it meant leaving the country. For example, it is estimated that more than 200,000 men of draft age went abroad in the late '60s and early '70s to avoid serving in the war in Vietnam (most to Canada and Sweden).
Third, an AVF is a more effective military. The members not only want to serve, but they remain in the service longer than the draftees, most of whom served only two years compared to the volunteers who serve, on average, six years and receive more training than the draftees before their initial deployments.
Fourth, many military leaders will initially oppose ending the draft and relying on the marketplace. During my five years in the Pentagon handling personnel policy, many of them argued that it would not only raise personnel costs significantly but could lead to a mercenary ethos, with people joining for the money rather than serving or sacrificing for their country. Moreover, the transition is difficult. It took us about a decade, from the end of the draft, to develop the marketing skills necessary to attract and maintain qualified volunteers. Catch phrases from the U.S. military commercials evolved from "today's Army wants to join you," to "be all you can be."
Fifth, if a country pursues or engages in unnecessary or unwinnable wars of choice, it will have a difficult time attracting volunteers. Consequently, its leaders should be more careful about engaging in those conflicts, as President Ronald Reagan was by not attacking Iran after 241 US Marines were among those killed in Beirut in 1983.
Sixth, the United States' active-duty military force, while smaller than its conscript force because it is more expensive, is more capable and is backed up by a well-trained and organized reserve component that is ready to be deployed and carry out its mission effectively almost immediately. In other words, the United States has a Total Force of more than two million troops.
U.S. reserves are more capable because, for the most part, they are part of organized units that train at least 50 days per year and therefore are ready to carry out their missions as soon as they are activated. Many of them also routinely deploy around the globe for extended purposes.
When we left Moscow, I believed that I had made a good case for transitioning from a conscript force to an AVF, especially now that the Cold War was over. However, during the years following our visit, Russia went through a decade of economic and political turmoil, ending with the leadership transition from Boris Yeltsin to Vladimir Putin in 1999. It would have been difficult for the Russians to make the transition even if its military wanted to.
[more at link - ed.]And staying in Ukraine - I've finally been able to find a
Ukrainian website that hasn't been blocked, and it's reporting some astonishing casualty figures.
From February 24 to November 22, the Defense Forces of Ukraine eliminated about 85,000 Russian military personnel, including 400 soldiers over the past day.
This is stated in the report of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine released on Facebook.
As of November 22, Ukrainian defenders destroyed 2,895 (+3 over the past day) enemy tanks, 5,827 (+5) armored personnel vehicles, 1,882 (+12) artillery systems, 395 (+2) MLRS, 209 (+0) anti-aircraft systems, 278 aircraft, 261 helicopters, 1,537 operational-tactical UAVs, 480 cruise missiles, 16 warships/boats, 4,393 (+15) vehicles and fuel tanks, 161 special equipment units.
According to the General Staff data, the enemy suffered the greatest losses in Bakhmut and Lyman directions.
As reported, on November 21, the Ukrainian troops repelled the enemy attacks in the areas of Stelmakhivka, Luhansk region; Spirne, Bilohorivka, Yakovlivka, Soledar, Bakhmut, Kamyanka, Opytne, Vesele, Pervomaiske, Krasnohorivka, Marinka, and Novomykhailivka, Donetsk region.It does remain "not our war". One can only speculate how Ukraine will deal with all their combat veterans in future days.