- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rosa Brooks, a former Pentagon official who is now a Georgetown law professor (and a fellow FP writer), said the lines of warfare and much else are much murkier than they were a few decades ago.
“Is a line of code a weapon?” she asked at the CNAS conference. “Well, it can kill people. It can do real damage.” (Tom: Glock vs. GLOC.)
She said it is crucial to be conscious of the legal framework you impose on a situation, because that can drive decisions. If you think a terrorist act is a criminal act, you will respond to it one way. If you decide it was an act of war, you will act in another way. Being unclear about this can lead to a haziness in strategy. “Because we can lawfully do almost anything, we do almost everything.” And a danger is that the next step is that other nations will imitate that approach.
She also made the point that drones might be better (and more ethical) about killing people than people are. “We have robocars, and it turns out they not only can drive a car as well as a human, they can do it better, because we have limited attention spans.” What, she asked, if drones are less prone to make mistakes?
John Reed is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He comes to FP after editing Military.com’s publication Defense Tech and working as the associate editor of DoDBuzz. Between 2007 and 2010, he covered major trends in military aviation and the defense industry around the world for Defense News and Inside the Air Force. Before moving to Washington in August 2007, Reed worked in corporate sales and business development for a Swedish IT firm, The Meltwater Group in Mountain View CA, and Philadelphia, PA. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter at the Tracy Press and the Scotts Valley Press-Banner newspapers in California. His first story as a professional reporter involved chasing escaped emus around California’s central valley with Mexican cowboys armed with lassos and local police armed with shotguns. Luckily for the giant birds, the cowboys caught them first and the emus were ok. A New England native, Reed graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a dual degree in international affairs and history.| The Complex |