Dinnis and Kleffner – Soldier 2.0: Military Human Enhancement and International Law 

This week we continue our look at military human enhancement to look at ‘Soldier 2.0: Military Human Enhancement and International Law ‘ by Heather A. Harrison Dinniss and Jann K. Kleffner (International Law Studies 92 (2016): 432–82), available here. It is a brilliant and fascinating look at many different legal aspects of military human enhancement, and I recommend you take a look.

Here’s what we think about the piece. Let you know your thoughts below.

I’ve been a part of the TTAC21 reading group for almost 18 months now, and this may well be one of the most interesting articles we’ve covered. In it, the authors explore the implications of human enhancement for the law of war, investigating various aspects of biochemical, cybernetic and prosthetic enhancements, and how they influence soldiers’ abilities on the battlefield and what they may then mean for the interaction between belligerent states.  

One of the best points about this paper in my mind is that it demonstrates an awareness of issues that go beyond the practical application of law, and it is willing to engage with issues that many other legalistic papers tend to ignore. The blurring of the human in particular is a key issue in future warfare and the working of law – especially when it becomes difficult to distinguish between the human and the machine. 

In other readings for TTAC21, I have criticised papers for ignoring issues relating to human enhancement and the role of soldiers once their service ends. I’m therefore really pleased that this paper seeks to engage with some of these issues. I was particularly interested in the question of the ‘ownership’ of enhancement, as this was something that hasn’t really come up in the course of my own related research. I was also interested to read the authors’ take on autonomy in light of the altered state of individuals subject to enhancement. While I certainly agree that enhancement impacts on the question of human responsibility, I believe we need to reassess the question of human autonomy in light of the ongoing ‘robotization’ of soldiers within a programmatic military framework.  

Mike Ryder, Lancaster University 

This article is, undeniably, a thorough and systematic consideration of one of the most fascinating topics in modern war. However, a lot of the worries about super soldiers seems to be based on the idea that they will become almost machine-like and could act without mercy or humanity, perhaps not taking compassionate actions to spare the lives of those who need no die. It seems odd to me that this would even be a consideration. Surely human elements are key to all soldiers. After all, that is why we still have humans in our armed forces, and have not yet just replaced them with robots. I have yet to hear of anybody suggest that machines should play any role that it not totally subordinate to humans. I presume this is because something intrinsically human is key to military success. If that it so, then keeping human traits in super soldiers can only be a good thing. If they are kept, and human enhancement focuses on physical improvement (better eyesight, less fatigue, etc.) Then this could give us a situation whereby not only do advanced militaries gain a lot for the improvements to their soldiers, but do not loose key human elements. In terms of the law of armed conflict, greater awareness of a situation can only lead to better appreciation of the impact which operations will have, and therefore should only lead to better compliance with  the law of armed conflict unless this appreciation is ignored. 

Joshua Hughes, Lancaster University  


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