John Metta: Our soldiers should die in war

While it’s easy to sit in a room somewhere and discuss the merits of building autonomous vehicles to do the “dirty work,” I’m very disturbed by the trend. In fact, it quite sickens me.

I feel that we are at a time when we should be seriously seeking to understand the humanity of each other. Other peoples, other cultures, other ways of being. Looking at the news, it may seem that often, the only thing that we have in common with a person on the other side of the planet is that we are both human.

But, I feel it’s important to remember that this commonality is the only thing that is important. The most important thing we have is our humanity, and humanity means that with makes us human.

Sitting in an office, safely controlling a machine that will extinguish the lives of human beings is not going to connect us to another human. It is not going to give us the chance to learn about that person’s worldview, nor is it going to give us the chance to describe ours. There is no conversation. There is only death.

And this is death at no cost to ourselves.

How disconnected do we want to be? Will we accept war without a price?

Positively Glorious: Our soldiers should die in war

See also: Military Robots and the Laws of War (adapted from PW Singer’s Wired for War)

My position is simpler: we shouldn’t fight wars.


  1. Brave Exposition.

  2. Honorable, but naive.

  3. Michael – my position or Metta’s? I know my position is idealistic. What is naive about Metta’s?

  4. His position is naive. I explained a bit on his blog and I’ll do more so here. His basic argument, if I understand it correctly, is that in order to deter war, war must be despicable. It already *is* despicable and should be avoided at all reasonable costs. I agree with him up to that point.

    However, I disagree that “our side” (whatever side that is) should go out of our way to ensure we experience a gruesome, horrifying, debilitating war simply so that war doesn’t become a matter of policy. Look at ancient Greece for example, especially Sparta. Fighting in a phalanx was absolutely horrific — it was bloody, nasty work. Did that deter the Peloponnesian war? Look at trench warfare in dubya dubya eye; did that deter the Germans from trying again later in the same century?

    The reality is that the human condition predisposes violent conflict and whoever can advance various techniques and make fighting more efficient through technology can then use that as a deterrent. Failing as a deterrent, efficient violence becomes a means of reducing the number of casualties on at least one side of the conflict. That is both realistic and more *humane* than what Metta is proposing.

    Again, I share your desire for an ideal world; void of war. I also share his conviction that war should be avoided at all reasonable cost. However, reality dictates that sooner or later, some punk on the playground is gonna want to try and take your lunch money and unless you can bloody his nose quicker and harder than he can bloody yours, he’ll never think twice about coming back for your lunch money again and again.

    Always employ the brightest intellectuals and diplomats to prevent war in the first place and always bring the biggest, ugliest stick to the negotiation table.

    For further reading:

    Trench warfare

    Ancient Greek warfare (the phalanx, especially the Krousis phase)

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