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


  • This video will be uploaded over the weekend. Please make sure to come back and watch the summary and also comment if we missed out anything!

  • That's all for Week 1!

    This week, we discussed the definition and history of Remote Control Warfare (RCW). We also explored the practical and ethical implications of the use of RCW.

    Furthermore, we looked at alternative perspectives, in particular the feminist perspective on the use of drones.

    We also discussed the definition and importance of...

  • What are your thoughts on the points above about oversight? Is it harder to oversee this type of warfare due to the degree of detachment from the chain of command?

    Also, we have seen the limitations in ensuring international law. What can be done?

  • Here we've discussed the definition of oversight, and why it is so important.

    Do you think that it is necessary to have oversight for RCW? If so, how can it be done? Do you think that the current mechanisms of oversight for RCW, internationally and domestically, are sufficient? If not, how can they be improved?

  • A key quote from this video neatly summarises the feminist perspective:
    For feminists, this mindset is selfish, mean, indifferent, and inhuman, as it couples the issues of safety with the issues of nationality. If someone is hurt abroad by mistake, that is because they happen to be citizens of the wrong country.

    What do you think of this critical view?

  • The morality, or legitimacy of Remote Control Warfare is a topic of debate.
    Some argue that operators become more "trigger-happy" due to the detachment and distance, and lack the on-the-ground situational judgement that conventional operators have. What then, should happen if there is an error? Who should be responsible?

    The normal chain-of-command might...

  • What are your thoughts on the historical perspective on Remote Control Warfare?

    Also, can you think of any instances in history where such use of RCW are significant?
    For example, in WW2, the Japanese actually tried using balloons to launch bombs in the US. Other examples have included the use of animals, to mixed success.

    Another interesting fact:...

  • In the video, Wali explained several reasons why states are leaning toward Remote Control Warfare. In fact, after the controversy of recent military interventions, RCW might be a preferred option politically and militarily. How about the moral implications though? Can you think of any that might contravene the justifications of RCW use?

  • Please share your thoughts on what you find most interesting about Remote Control Warfare and why.

    For me, it is a worrying global trend where more and more countries are increasingly developing and employing Remote Control Warfare. For example, countries that have conducted drone strikes have increased threefold since 2015....

  • The Syria case represents an example of how challenging it is to regulate and punish the use of chemical weapons. Failure to prosecute the instigator might lead to further use of such terrible weapons by rogue states or non-state actors.

    Moving on to Remote Control Warfare, while they are incomparable to weapons of mass destruction, there is also much less...

  • There were certainly concerns about the lack of knowledge of US covert operations. On one hand, keeping this information confidential is paramount to the protection of individuals involved. On the other hand, such secrecy lacks oversight and is difficult to justify.

    Such operations are often justified to ensure national interests. Raids to eliminate...

  • What do you think about the growing reliance on Remote Control Warfare (RCW)?

    It is argued that RCW is a means of the containment strategy: to contain a specific threat in a certain region, and prevent it from spreading. Yet, its effectiveness is also being questioned.

    It certainly is a less risky option than deploying "boots on the grounds", but it...

  • What are your thoughts on Remote Control Warfare?

    What are the advantages and reasons for employing them? On the other hand, can you think of any negative consequences?

    Something to think about, as a citizen of your country, how much do you know about the use of RCW by your government? Also, how would you feel about such use by *other* countries?

  • Before we start, feel free to share your thoughts on the above two questions.
    This will also help us appreciate why there is so much concern on the use of Remote Control Warfare.

  • No doubt most of us use Google as the default search engine to look for information. But if anyone knows of any reliable alternatives, feel free to share them here too!

  • Hi everyone, I hope you find this video useful! In future discussions feel free to share any information that you find online. However, it is also important to keep in mind that not all information is reliable, so please take some time to verify them!

  • The Russian-Ukraine war is indeed a developing case that garners attention. Other than drones, we have seen both sides employing other forms of Remote Control Warfare, such as private military companies (foreign fighters), and special forces to help them in the war too.

  • Hopefully you will find this course helpful in the next few weeks! Keep in mind though, that we will be discussing other forms of Remote Control Warfare other than drones, such as private mercenaries and special forces.

  • Hi everyone! Allow me to introduce myself. I'm from Singapore, and studied International Relations in the UK. The trend of Remote Control Warfare is something significant in modern times, and I believe that it is something worth looking at.

    How about you? Tell us about yourself. And also why have you chosen to study this course? What are you hoping to...

  • Welcome to the course! I am the student mentor and will be here to answer any questions or talk about the topics in detail throughout the next few weeks. Please feel free to share any views/opinions/questions in the comment sections, and I look forward to discussing them with you.

  • @AndreaStables Thank you for your kind words! We also appreciate your contributions in the discussions :)

  • Thank you for the feedback. If possible, please leave a review of the course, that will help a lot :)

  • Its ironic and contradicting isn't it? By looking for ways to improve one's defense and ensure survival by enhancing your capabilities, mankind has developed and advanced creative and innovative ways of warfare, which in turn threatens the security of others. Thus, this result in a never-ending cycle and security dilemma....

  • It is challenging. On one hand, if the West has stayed to help build the infrastructure, they face accusations of neo-colonialism. On the other hand, when they leave the situation in the locals' own hand, the situation might become chaotic due to different objectives from various groups. The balance is hard to find, just like the question to intervene or not...

  • It is indeed important to look at the background and understand the reasons for civilian support of RCW. In this case, 9/11 was the watershed moment.

    It is also true to an extent that drone operations are increasingly subjected to oversight and accountability. And as you mentioned, the key question is state-directed assassinations.
    Compare for instance,...

  • On justified bombing, the atomic bombings on Japan undoubtedly ended the way and have a deterring effect due to its destructive capacity and aftermath. The lingering radiation means that the cities are not suitable for inhabitation for a long period. It would be difficult to imagine how WW2 would end without them.

    Yet, it is important to note that these...

  • On your first point, you are right in pointing out the importance of good governance, accountability, and oversight in real democracies. How about countries with other political systems? How can checks and balances be imposed on authoritarian leaders?

    Consider China and the South China Sea dispute:


  • Why is there a shift towards AI then? Is it possible to think of another alternative as states seek a quicker response to threats?

    Another interesting movie about AI and Security is Eagle Eye

  • RCW can be seen as a solution to previous problems faced with "boots on the ground". Yet, it has also created new challenges and obstacles, which ironically requires "boots on the grounds" to resolve. Its use by criminal groups and rogue organisations will also impose even more issues.

  • Thanks for sharing :) That is very extensive and will be very helpful!

    What are your thoughts on state use of Special Forces? Especially in cases where they were employed on foreign soil

  • You are right, it is the "user" that further determines the outcome of war. Still, it cannot be denied that technology brings a number of strategic advantages. On the other hand, it might also create new unforeseen challenges too.

  • With the advancement of technology, oppositions will always find ways to respond, deal with, and circumvent these if they cannot compete on the same level.

    As you mentioned, this will lead to a more chaotic and unpredictable nature of warfare. Warring parties might resort to asymmetrical means to cause disruption, which might constitute morally...

  • It is a significant challenge. In contemporary history, we have witnessed how superpowers responded to different conflicts in varying degrees: from non-intervention, limited intervention (RCW), and full engagement, in Rwanda, Kosovo, Iraw, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria etc. etc.

    There are a lot of factors behind this phenomenon, from the international level...

  • The success and effectiveness of AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) is also a topic for debate.
    Its pathways are still arguably obstructed by self-interested parties, persistent strategic challenges, and controversies involving the Mission that affects the legitimacy.

    Dr. Paul D. Williams has written extensively on AMISOM and Somalia, feel free to...

  • Indeed, military intervention has always been a controversial topic.
    On one hand, some would argue that interventions are infringements of sovereignty and further destabilise the situation.
    On the other hand, non-intervention might sometimes result in tragic consequences, e.g. the Rwanda genocide.

  • It is unfortunate that some of these articles require a paid subscription. We apologise.

    Still, there are a lot of other similar discussions available on the Internet. You can use some of the tips given in Week 1 to do some independent research and see if there if you can find anything interesting!

  • This will be a very powerful tool to state control, with huge restrictions on civil liberty. The debate then, will be on whether one prefer stability/security or freedom/liberty? This seems to reflect the long-standing search for balance between these two.

  • To add another intriguing perspective to this topic. What if one state decides to maintain the human element in the decision-making process, but another state shifted to total automation?

  • I agree, technological advancements will only result in new developments of RCW. And it is only logical for them to be put into use for tactical advantages and strategic benefits. It is also much preferable to nuclear weapons.

    The watershed moment as you mentioned might be a turn for the better, but it might as well be a turn to the worse. The direction of...

  • That is a very interesting view. In fact, the shift might even focus on weapons of mass disruption. By destabilising the inside of a country by causing chaos, this asymmetrical means will allow states to avoid risks and casualties, whilst achieving strategic aims at the same time.
    The problem is that there is a very low threshold in engaging in these means,...

  • The Libya intervention shows a different approach compared to the past. Previously, own troops are deployed on the ground to fight and assist in the battles, even staying after to oversee the peace-building process. Yet, after being faced with criticisms of interfering with internal affairs and propping up puppet governments, states have gradually shifted to...

  • Indeed, even without the use of drones, there will always be other problems to consider too.

    It might be the case of selecting the "less worse" option after all...

  • In your opinion, how should the US proceed forward in the future? It is arguable that there are dangerous jihadist groups still in the region that are plotting terrorist attacks.
    On the other hand, we have also seen the effect of the use of drones driving out these militants to other regions and countries, thus resulting in an inevitable spread of terrorism.

  • There are arguments that governments have the right to ultimately decide on the best policies as the public might not always be rightly informed (due to misinformation). But then, this contradicts the democratic values that so many countries hold onto.

    On global opinion, indeed there are many potential repercussions to consider and thus decisions should...

  • What if the "technology" is something destructive and morally questionable?
    If one state's citizens support the use of nuclear/chemical/biological weapons in the face of a threat, should the government proceed without considering the consequences and without taking accord the global opinion?
    This is as always a very tricky issue.

  • I agree, state governments should first and foremost be accountable to their own citizens, optimally without the expense of others.

    You are also right in pointing out the special circumstances regarding the borders of Afghanistan/Waziristan. There is no formal administration over those regions, which makes it even more challenging to apprehend any...

  • Indeed, the preference for the use of drones on foreign citizens implies ignorance of the rule of law, which Western countries so strongly advocates; as well as the double-standard on its own citizens and foreigners.

    This will only damage the reputation and legitimacy, and obstruct any promoting of values.

  • You are right. A clear understanding and empathy between both sides will go a long way in conflict resolution. Hopefully these lessons were heeded to during the recent israeli-Palestinian conflict.

  • The various decision-making process can have different results and consequences, sometime (most of the times, in fact) it is flawed and not perfect. Consider the survivorship bias, echo chamber effect and other others that might negatively influence those processes....

  • Interesting movies, thanks again for sharing!

    The Libya case is particularly interesting. We have seen how a number of countries send in their Special Forces to train different groups of rebel groups and militia. Yet, the lack of a concerted effort and united strategy led to distinctive aims, agendas and objectives, resulting in chaos. This highlights one...

  • One extreme example of "engaging in evil to do good" is the atomic strikes on Japan to end the second World War. Others would also point to the tragic consequences of non-intervention that resulted in the Rwanda massacre.

    Yet, it is confounding to try and find a purpose for good in the redefining of legitimate targets and double-tap strikes. This only...

  • Outrage and indignation is a very exact description of how public sentiment can be regarding drone strikes in one's own countries.

    It was also suspected that Pakistan turned a blind eye to US drone strikes, and provided partial information which would see US drones taking out anti-Pakistani militants. In a way, Pakistan has also used this to its benefit,...

  • This shows that the formulation of opinions can go both ways. You are right in pointing out that public opinion can be shaped through government propaganda. E.g. Westerners view foreigners as terrorists, and foreigners view Westerners as imperialists/colonisers.

    So while a responsible state should take into account the view of its own citizens, it arguably...

  • Exactly. This highlights the "double-standard" where "the strong do what they do and the weak suffer what they must".
    This will only further divide the world into "us" vs "them".

    Ironically, domestic terrorism has now grown and is arguably a more threatful presence than foreign militants. See, for example, these articles on the US....

  • Thanks for sharing. Indeed, war is horrible with terrible repercussions to everyday civilian lives.
    However, is war really unavoidable?
    A look throughout the history of mankind has shown that war is a constant. Some would argue that war is sometimes necessary to achieve peace, especially in the face of oppression.
    What do you think?

  • This highlights the importance of critical oversight and accountability to one's regime. It was mentioned above that, had US not been the victor in WW2, it would be prosecuted for war crimes. This promotes the notion that victors have impunity, resulting in perpetuated warfare aiming to win, rather than negotiating for peace.

    What do you think?

  • You are right, the decision-making process involves various individuals with different views, beliefs, and ideologies. Sometimes, they have to compete with each other for influence on whether to go one way or the other. Yet, they all face the burden of responsibility together especially when consequences are high.

    See for example, John Bolton's The Room...

  • I agree. Still, it is one thing to be involved in the decision-making process under those circumstances, and another thing to reflect about them in a documentary with hindsight. Politicians sometimes suffer from an echo chamber effect where the same views get repeated and echoed and thus one's beliefs are influenced. Sometimes, they are also not afforded...

  • Thank you for sharing, that sounds like an interesting book.

    This shows that public sentiment is also one important factor to consider regarding the morality and legitimacy of interventions and the use of RCW.

    The justifiability of conducting war has been a long-standing debate, you might find the Just War Theory and the Responsibility to Protect...

  • Thank you so much for the feedback! We strive to learn and improve along the way too :)
    It was a pleasure to hear your views and discuss them the past few weeks, very much appreciate your contributions!

  • Indeed, oversight and accountability is a significant issue to consider regarding RCW.

    I understand that the focus on Western countries might be because of the wide discussion and knowledge on their use. However, I think that the emphasis should not just be applied in Western countries, but globally, including other states that has the capacity, as well as...

  • Vasili Arkhipov's heroics is an example that demonstrates the importance of the human element, where one man standing up against "rationality" helped changed the course of history.

    With AI and algorithms behind decision-making, this puts into question the balance between swift and decisive action and human consideration.

    On one hand, it is undeniable...

  • This is indeed true, it is possible that we can avoid the tragic repeat of history where cities were destroyed to end wars, i.e. Hiroshima and Nagasaki in WW2.

    On the other hand, this might blur the line between peace-time and conflict, and there is the increasing possibility where civilians might become victims and suffer disruptions to their daily lives...

  • It's more about the context in which drones are used. For example, Pakistan is not actually declared a war zone like Afghanistan or Libya or Syria, yet drones are being used to eliminate militants that are being considered as threats.

    Yet, the definition of "legitimate targets" can sometimes be questionable, as they were defined widely as "military-age...

  • It is interesting to watch Mr. McNamara review the history and acknowledge the consequences and lessons with the benefit of hindsight. I think lesson 1 is particularly important too, and that most politicians nowadays should be reminded of.

  • That is a very succinct and clear argument. This conforms with the "Realism" view where states aim to gain as much power as possible. With power, threats can be dealt with more means, including RCW, and international rules only apply whenever convenient.
    There are two branches of this view, offensive realism argues that states will strive to be the hegemon,...

  • As usual, this summary video will be uploaded during the weekend. Do come back and watch it as we go through our discussions throughout the course!

  • We have now reached the end of the course, thank you all for your contributions and discussions.

    Looking back to the past 4 weeks, we hope that you have found this course to be useful. Please feel free to share any reflections you have had or any particular takeaways. :)

  • 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...

  • Thank you for sharing. This shows one potential danger of the proliferation of drones, as well as the challenges of its regulation.

  • That is an interesting view. Would it be possible for the EU to decrease its reliance on the US? If so, would EU then be able to effectively oppose and criticise US drone policy?

  • Thanks for sharing, that incident demonstrates the potential damage of cyberattacks. In the past, wars are being fought directly between militaries, but with the current development of technology, it is possible that warfare has shifted to behind-the-scenes disruptions, with a lower relative risk of facing the consequences.

  • How would this affect the concept of "sovereignty"? Can one still effectively defend its "cyber sovereignty"?

  • It is a hard balance to find, between being a "dominating hegemon" and a "responsible superpower". While the US, on one hand, has provided stability by creating alliances and security cooperation, and also created frameworks for international cooperation; on the other hand, it has attracted competition and opposition in some of its more questionable decisions...