Soo Eng Hao (Student Mentor)

Soo Eng Hao (Student Mentor)

I am the student mentor for this course, I am here to welcome your comments and to assist you with any questions/queries you may have.

Location Bath, United Kingdom


  • @MichaelM. It is also not the only incident to have negative repercussions on the reputation of PMCs.
    Some might argue, however, that it can be unfair to highlight these, in contrast to so many other operations that have been completed without any incidents.
    In most of the cases, the people has taken issue with the fact that these PMCs are "private", and...

  • @RAJWANTSANDHU Yes you are right. The main point is to give an example on how politicians of other countries have politicse the drone issue to garner domestic support.

  • @MichaelM. The root problem, it seems, is this "anti-West sentiment". What is the root? And how can it be solved? Scholars have been pondering this question for a long time

  • Interesting point. As a matter of fact, the topic of "intervention" is a highly discussed one, there are strong arguments on both sides regarding the causes & consequences of such interventions.

  • Good point. So often we have witnessed conflicts that have dragged so long without any clear end..

  • This is a nice overview of what we have learned the past few weeks. What are your main takeaways?

  • Do you think that weapons system should be completely automated? Or should a human element still remain on the trigger no matter the advancement of technology?

  • While the links and references were about 2014, what do you think has or has not changed since then?

  • Feel free to conduct your own research and share any other cases on the use of Special Forces :)

  • Referring to the recent cases of the Russian-Ukraine war, what can you observe in relations to the above questions?

  • What do you think about the Western Intervention in Libya?
    How about other cases of interventions? Are there any similarities or differences?

  • Please continue to Part 2 for discussion :)

  • In this case study, US use of PMCs and UK use of Special Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan were discussed respectively.

    Feel free to check the links below for the various perspectives on RCW, and let us know your thought on them by commenting below.

    Additional Useful Links:

    The Blackwater Shooting (2007) | The New York...

  • On US drone operations in Pakistan, Dr Aslam pointed out some prominent issues.

    Firstly, the civilian casualties, particularly the redefinition of legitimate targets and double-tap strikes. This implies that the US has arguably committed war crimes.

    Secondly, drones stir up anti-Western sentiments as they were seen as symbols of imperialism and...

  • The discussion here is mainly focused on Western developed countries. How about other developing countries and non-democracies? Do you think the same argument will apply to them?

  • Of the eleven lessons above, which one resonates with you the most? And why?

  • The topic of remote control warfare splits opinions. On one hand, some advocate the use of RCW due to its effectiveness and risk-free aspects; on the other hand, the morality and justifications were questioned.

    What do you think? Is there a way to find a balance between both sides?

  • This week we will be looking into specific case studies. Throughout the week, do feel free to read up about these cases, or even share about recent cases which might be relevant in this course. :)

  • Interesting... It seems like every time there is a certain advancement of technology, there will be a cycle of exploitation of such technology > leading to a risk of sovereignty > and then states adjusting and adapting accordingly to protect and preserve their sovereignty. Can you think of any example? And do you think that this will remain the case on drones?

  • While in some cases, a lack of enforcement might lead many to doubt efforts to ensure accountability; it is still arguable that some form of scrutiny is always better than none. By publicising information about the use of drones by certain governments, and exerting pressure (both domestic and international), slowly and systematically some kind of deterrent can...

  • Hi, thank you for joining the course! However, please observe the guidelines and comment only in the English language so that we all can engage and discuss together. Thank you! :)

  • Thanks for sharing!

  • Given the focus on the acquisition of nuclear weapons by rogue states (Iran, North Korea etc.), what about drones? Should they be restricted in this aspect too?

  • Indeed, we can observe that more and more drones are being used as a way to counter their asymmetrical positions.

  • The wrap-up video will be uploaded over the weekend as usual.

    Please come back to watch it as Dr. Aslam will be going over our discussions and questions.

    See you all next week!

  • We have now finished Week 3 and will be entering our final week. :)

    This week we have looked more specifically at the US, UK, Europe and the Asia Pacific regarding their politics on RCW.

    Next week, we will be looking into case studies on the use of RCW in different conflict zones.

    Please share your thoughts on what you have learned this week, we look...

  • There are a number of regional organisations and initiatives that can be a platform for trust building mechanisms. Can you think of any? Are they practical and effective?

  • Down south, both Australia and New Zealand can be seen as aligned to Western values. Especially the former, which is increasingly shifting towards forming closer ties with the US and the UK. What are the reasons and possible consequences?

  • On the other side of the globe, the Asia Pacific region is also worth looking at as a sign of RCW proliferation. What do you think?

  • Do you observe any differences between the UK, US and Europe in the politics of drone? What are they and why is that so?

  • What are your views on the EU's use of PMCs?

    Can you think of any obstacles to their regulation?

  • Feel free to discuss your opinions here on the US' shift towards a more unconventional type of warfare.

  • What do you think about the US foreign policy? There has been some changes since Obama's presidency, do you think it has improved?

  • What do you think on the US and the UK's use of RCW?

    Any similarities or differences?

  • What do you think of these recent developments and shift towards RCW?

  • Looking forward to hearing your views next week on this topic!

  • Feel free to share any information you found on the above countries and regions regarding RCW.

  • In reality, most non-combat roles have indeed been outsourced to private companies. This shift is an attempt to resolve the lack of manpower issue, as countries face an ageing population.

    On the other hand though, some might argue that PMCs are paid professionals with their own code of conduct. This might counter your argument, considering that standard...

  • That is a good suggestion. Frequent monitoring will help ensure that special forces and other RCW comply with the rules as they operate under scrutiny.

  • Well said! This establishes the "what" to oversight. The next question, then, is "who" should be doing the overseeing?

  • You have raised some good points here. A number of SF deployments are agreed upon by allies of the US, and that the presence of US forces is a necessary deterrent (think South Korea vs North Korea, Taiwan vs China etc.)

    However, this might result in an over-reliance on the US to maintain strategic balance. As you also mentioned, this is hardly a long-term...

  • That is a good question. We will be discussing that in detail next week. In the meantime, you can also try doing some research online and see if there is information available to share :)

  • To be fair, special forces are still under the military so there is a chain of command. It might be the more regulated compared to drones and PMCs but that still depends on the countries too.

  • That's why this is a topic that needs to be discussed :)

  • Good point! It puts into question how PMCs can be regulated, and if it is really possible to do so.

  • This has been a question faced by many in the past decades. The Global War on Terror since 911 saw the US declare war against Al Qaeda (non-state terrorist organisation), so it is indeed possible and it has happened before.

  • While it is true that problematic non-state actors need to be dealt with, the methods on doing so is the main question. Is deploying RCW really the right answer? It has been decades since the Global War on Terror has been eradicated, and there are no signs of extremism waning or eradicating. On the contrary, it keeps popping up under different names, with...

  • Interesting point. From the glass half full perspective though, when compared to the global situation years ago, some might argue that it has been an improvement. Gone are the days of empires waging war between each other, with international organisations becoming a platform for diplomacy and dialogue. So many conflicts have been avoided this way. Obviously...

  • It's true that throughout history war times are more common than peace time. In the past, war has been waged between clans and empires to seize territories. However, this has changed. We have seen different reasons to wage wars, from ideology, to religion, to security, to independence etc. When both sides are fighting for something that they believe in, the...

  • As per last week, the summary video will be uploaded over the weekend.

    Please come back and watch the summary of the discussions on Week 2.

    See you next week :)

  • That's it for Week 2!

    This week we have explored in-depth the matter of oversight and how they are conducted with drones, special forces, and private military forces respectively.

    We have also discussed the culture of fear and the politics of risks.

    Let us know your thoughts on what you have learned this week. What's the most interesting...

  • Would a Drone Accountability Regime as suggested above help address drone oversight?

    Why was it deemed "infeasible" for a formal legal treaty? Will the informality be an obstacle in seeking accountability?

  • In the video, Professor Durodié argues that the increasing use of PMCs is because of the decreasing authority of the modern state.

    Also, the lack of a clear mission and purpose, as well as the tendency to avoid risks, are factors as well. These are results as states seek to regain their authority.

    What about the use of drones? Last week we have mentioned...

  • Fear and risk can cause misinterpretation of information. Stereotypes and misperceptions are important factors as well.

    The difference in connotations can be observed when we compared the words "French", "British", "American", to "Russian", "North Korea", "Chinese", etc.

    This arguably stems from the culture of fear from the Cold War and the difference of...

  • Here, the culture of fear relates to the politics of risk.

    By avoiding risks, sometimes the essential purpose of the mission can be contradicted.

    This thus highlights the importance of a strategic aim or a mission objective.

    Coming back to the use of special forces and intelligence gathering. Sometimes information is gathered for the sake of it,...

  • Following on the previous step, technology proliferation can constitute a threat if used wrongly or are in the wrong hands.

    What are the consequences? The need for oversight? The culture of fear? A regression of some kind?

  • With the development of new technology, it is customary to predict any threats or risks in the use of such technology.

    However, sometimes this can culminate in a culture of fear, where the disadvantages are highlighted over the benefits. Also, this can be manipulated by fear-mongering and conspiracy theories, with serious repercussions. For example, the...

  • In the previous steps, we have seen that there is a certain amount of state control on the use of drones and special forces. In this video, however, the use of private military forces is a different concern.

    From international efforts in the formation of the ICOC (International Code of Conduct for Private Security Providers), to respective national...

  • Last week, we discussed the definition of oversight and its importance.

    We have also explored UK oversight of drones, and US oversight of special forces.

    On the matters of oversight, what are the key issues to focus on?

    The reasons of action? The action itself? The consequences? The budget? etc.?

    Oversight can be conducted before, during, and after...

  • In this step, we shift our attention from drones to special forces.

    On one hand, the nature of "special" forces means that they are different from conventional forces in a lot of aspects. The secretive nature of covert operations is sometimes undeniably necessary to achieve mission objectives.

    On the other hand, particularly for democracies, transparency...

  • Part 2 analyses the oversight mechanisms of the UK on the use of drones. It is overall quite comprehensive and in line with international law.

    How about such mechanisms in other states, like the US? Or other states where information is not as freely available as the UK, e.g. North Korea, Iran, Russia, China?

    Another problem is also the use of drones by...

  • In this video, Dr Moon identified several issues with the use of drones.

    1. The increased use of drones has reduced the threshold for military intervention. In the past, such interventions would require the approval/authorisation from the legislative bodies, e.g. Parliament (UK)/Congress(US). This means more unchecked power for the executive body, e.g....

  • What are your thoughts about the International Criminal Court?

    Are there any ways to improve it? Or is there maybe a possible alternative?

    Some have argued that the ICC's capability is limited due to the self-serving nature of states who are protective of their own sovereignty. It is understandable that governments will want to protect themselves or...