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Why we should rethink warfare

Ahead of their free online course, “From State Control to Remote Control: Warfare in the 21st Century,” Dr Wali Aslam and Dr David Moon of the University of Bath question the new kind of warfare brought about by technological innovation and risk aversion.

A drone - one example of remote control warfare
A drone – one example of remote control warfare. Image © Corporal Steve Follows RAF/MOD [OGL], via Wikimedia Commons.

From major military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan throughout the 2000s to responses to significant security threats in the 2010s, how war is being waged around the world has shifted dramatically in the 21st century.

A shifting focus

Where states were once the principal players in a clearly-defined battle space, innovations in technology and a distinct shift in political will in terms of committing troops to battle, has seen modern warfare move from an era of state control into a world of remote control.

Drone technology and the privatisation of security, through special operations forces, may be just some of the visible examples of this, but the rise of so-called “remote control” tactics are prevalent across the modern battle space.

The killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan by US Special Forces is perhaps the most high profile example of these remote control tactics.

Why does this matter?

Much of this shift in modern warfare tactics has come about without public oversight or scrutiny. Post-Iraq, risk aversion among politicians and the public to intervening in conflict has precipitated a change. But despite this, fundamental ethical and cultural questions remain unanswered.

Do private military companies like Blackwater truly represent a good use of state resources? How might remote methods of warfare actually be enabling states to circumvent the law? And far from making states more risk averse to engaging in battle, does remote control warfare actually make it easier for states to wage a new kind of war?

Putting it in context

Drawing on the latest research and analysis in the field, and with input from leading international relations scholars from the University of Bath, our free online course, “From State Control to Remote Control: Warfare in the 21st Century” offers you the chance to reflect and critically analyse these important developments.

With examples from Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and Iraq, and the UK-US and Chinese responses, you will be challenged to think about war in new and important ways.

You can join the free online course “From State Control to Remote Control: Warfare in the 21st Century” now. Or join the conversation using #FLrcwbath.

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