This paper argues that combatants on the battlefield are required to approach a sophisticated autonomous weapon system (AWS) with the “Combatant’s Stance”—the ascription of mental states required to understand the system’s strategic behavior on the battlefield. However, the fact that an AWS must be engaged with the combatant’s stance does not entail that other persons are relieved of criminal or moral responsibility for war crimes committed by autonomous weapons. Military commanders can and should be held responsible for perpetrating war crimes through an AWS regardless of the moral status of the AWS as a culpable or non-culpable agent. Nonetheless, this article concludes that there is one area where international criminal law is ill suited to dealing with a military commander’s responsibility for unleashing an AWS that commits a war crime. Many of these cases will be based on the commander’s recklessness and unfortunately international criminal law has struggled to develop a coherent theoretical and practical program for prosecuting crimes of recklessness.
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