Chemical weapons, bioterrorism, cyber attacks, drones – these are the ammo of 21st century war. But weaponry’s not all that’s changing in modern war: the “War on Terror” has blurred frontlines and complicated our definition of “the enemy.” So what’s next, and how do we thrive in these new battles?
This month, New America launched a new project on the “Future of War” – an effort that’s convening a wide range of thinkers to demystify contemporary conflict. Led by Peter Bergen, Director of the National Security Program, the project will move beyond the post-9/11 state of perpetual war and towards an enhancement of human rights globally.
Here are a few key takeaways:
1. Technology is a big reason why the nature of war is shifting; the face of war has been forever altered by it.
2. Surveillance on an unprecedented global scale, the use of private contractors for publicly-funded ventures and the delicate and dangerous line walked by those who utilize drones are components of modern war that have introduced new conceptual and legal hurdles. Even defining the conflicts we engage in and the persons we engage with requires its own complex wording.
“If we retain existing constructs of war and peace, how do we define these? In the “war” against al Qaeda and its allies, “the battlefield” is potentially anywhere on the globe and “the enemy” is not another army but a loosely associated group of individuals of varying nationalities. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were armed conflicts, but as a legal matter, is the United States in an “armed conflict” with suspected violent extremists living in Bosnia, or with militant leaders in Pakistan’s tribal regions? Are we in an armed conflict with suspected al Qaeda “associates” in Somalia? Is a U.S. drone strike in Somalia a lawful strike against an enemy combatant in an armed conflict, or the illegal, immoral murder of a human being in a foreign country (and a possible violation of sovereignty and the United Nations Charter to boot)?”
3. Human rights is a broad term, but as we venture into a new world of conflict we must consider who we leave at a disadvantage. Sovereignty has been tested by weapons like drones, and access to information technology can at times be a privilege granted only to a few. Moreover, the line between civilian and target has become increasingly blurred. Powerful nations have seized upon the ability to overpower those with less access to resources, and the dynamic has become polarized.
These topics and others will be raised by the Future of War team, in what looks to be a vital and essential defense against permanent global conflict. As we find ourselves in the midst of a radically changed world, we must begin to seek answers and solutions.
Learn more about the future of war.
Read the original on the New America Foundation website.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.