David M. Brown's Blog

July 9, 2016

Kill or be killed

Filed under: Society and culture,Technology,Terrorism,War — davidmbrowndotcom @ 8:16 am

A Los Angeles Times article says that Dallas cops’ use of sophisticated military equipment to kill someone before that someone could kill (more of) them raises “raises ethical questions.” One such is the risk that powerful technology like the bomb-ferrying robot used to kill the Dallas sniper could be misused. Yes, it could be misused…just like every other weapon and every tool in human history. Battering rams can be used to smash in doors of innocent home owners in the middle of the night solely because somebody told the police that drugs were on the premises. But battering rams don’t invade homes; home invaders do.

The only question relevant in a kill-or-be-killed situation like what happened in Dallas is whether there’s a way to kill the enemy without being killed yourself. If you’re the victim of the aggression, you already know it’s right, as matter of the ethical principle of self-defense, to kill the enemy.

The new tactic may “raise ethical questions,” but, contrary to what the LA Times headline seems to be implying, not any new ethical questions, not with respect to what to do in certain situations given the materials available to you. If you can stop the guy shooting at you most quickly and definitively only by dropping a giant rock on his head, do that. If aiming a satellite-based laser beam on his head is the only way, do that. All the considerations about risk and effectiveness that are relevant with respect to deploying any other weapon against the killer are also relevant with respect to deploying the bomb-ferrying robot.

And it turns out that the police were correct. The robot-delivered bomb did kill Micah Johnson, and only Johnson. Good job, remote-controlled devices.

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