The law of weaponry from 1914 to 2014 : is the law keeping pace with technological evolution in the military domain ?
by Robin Geiss
Aus Kiel in die Welt : Festschrift zum 100-jährigen Bestehen des Walther-Schücking-Instituts für Internationales Recht = Kiel's contribution to international law : essays in honour of the 100th anniversary of the Walther Schücking Institute for International Law
Berlin : Duncker and Humblot, 2014
In 2014, new military technologies such as drones and increasingly autonomous weapons systems as well as cyber- and outer-space capabilities are at issue, the question as to whether international law is keeping pace with technological evolution in the military domain appears to be at least as pertinent today as it was in 1914. Conspicuously, the technological quantum leaps of today are still by and large evaluated and discussed in light of the very same legal principles that informed the legality of weapons systems and military technologies of the First World War-most of which had their roots already in the 19th century. Even though these principles are rightly described as dynamic, i.e. adaptable to the development of new weaponry, they are static in as far as they rest on certain ethical underpinnings that prevailed at the time of their inception. In view of some of the technological sea changes that are at issue today, the ostensible possibility of fully autonomous weapon systems in particular, it must be reconsidered whether the underlying ethical considerations have not also changed, thereby necessitating a more fundamental adaptation of the law than a dynamic interpretation of existing concepts.