War is about the sacrifice of blood and treasure, and the American style of war is to substitute treasure for blood.
But now the Army stands on the threshold of one of the greatest transformations in war-fighting history, on the short list with steel and gunpowder. The Future Combat Systems program is aimed at developing an array of new vehicles and systems — including armed robots. The robots of past science fiction were governed by Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws, which precluded bringing harm to humans. But the real robots of the future will be different. Within a decade, the Army will field armed robots with intellects that possess, as H.G. Wells put it, “minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic.”
Let us dwell on “unsympathetic.” These killers will be utterly without remorse or pity when confronting the enemy. That’s something new. In 1947, military historian S.L.A. Marshall published “Men Against Fire,” which documented the fundamental difference between real soldiers and movie soldiers: Most real soldiers will not shoot at the enemy. Most won’t even discharge their weapons, and most of the rest do no more than spray bullets in the enemy’s general direction. These findings remain controversial, but the hundreds of thousands of bullets expended in Iraq for every enemy combatant killed suggests that it’s not too far off the mark.
Only a few troops, perhaps 1 percent, will actually direct aimed fire at the enemy with the intent to kill. These troops are treasured, and set apart, and called snipers.
Armed robots will all be snipers. Stone-cold killers, every one of them. They will aim with inhuman precision and fire without human hesitation. They will not need bonuses to enlist or housing for their families or expensive training ranges or retirement payments. Commanders will order them onto battlefields that would mean certain death for humans, knowing that the worst to come is a trip to the shop for repairs. The writing of condolence letters would become a lost art.
That’s awesome. I hope one major nation develops these and uses them to create a world empire. That would end the instability between nation-states and the problem of nuclear proliferation. It would also be one photogenically horrifying war.