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Directed Energy Ethics, Term Paper Example

Pages: 18

Words: 4973

Term Paper

Introduction

The use of directed energy weapons is controversial, with many arguing for and against them. Directed energy weapons are a type of weapon that uses energy to control or damage an object or person. The energy can be in the form of light, sound, electricity, or heat. Directed energy weapons have been around for centuries, but they have only recently been developed into powerful military tools. The ethics of using directed energy weapons is a complex topic. There are many pros and cons to consider, and it is not always clear what the right thing to do is. However, we can use some general principles to guide our decision-making. Foremost, it’s crucial to consider every activity’s effects (Schneider, n.p). First, people must ask themselves if the benefits of using a directed energy weapon outweigh the risks. Second, they should always try to minimize harm and avoid causing unnecessary suffering. And finally, people should always act cautiously and respect human life. By following these principles, people can ensure that we use directed energy weapons ethically.

When it comes to the ethics of directed energy weapons, there are two main schools of thought. The first school of thought is that directed energy weapons can be used ethically, as long as they are carefully regulated. Proponents argue that directed energy weapons can be valuable for militaries and law enforcement agencies. For example, they can disable enemy vehicles or subdue violent criminals without causing serious injury. Directed energy weapons can also be used for non-lethal crowd control by shining a bright light at demonstrators to disperse them. Proponents of this view argue that directed energy weapons can be useful in many different situations and that their use should be carefully controlled to minimize harm. According to a research study by the RAND Corporation, “if used within existing legal frameworks and under accountable political control, DEWs could provide militaries with new capabilities for delivering non-lethal effects in a more precise and less harmful way than many existing options.” This view is shared by many government agencies and military organizations, which have started to invest in directed energy weapon technology (Zohuri, 2019). Another research study by the United States Army War College found that “the use of non-lethal DEWs could provide significant benefits to the U.S. military in terms of posture, deterrence, and operational effectiveness.” In addition, DEWs “may assist the United States to comply with the standards of proportionality and distinction under international humanitarian law,” according to this study’s other finding.

The second school of thought is that directed energy weapons can never be used ethically. According to its detractors, directed energy weapons are too unpredictable and deadly to be deployed in any circumstance. They contend that there is no way to ensure that these weapons will only be used against military targets and that utilizing them might easily result in civilian fatalities. Furthermore, directed energy weapons may be used to torture and question individuals, according to detractors, which is a blatant violation of their human rights. Additionally, some contend that employing directed energy weapons should only be done as a last choice since they might quickly escalate a battle. This view is shared by many human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. In a joint statement, these organizations said that “the use of directed energy weapons against people should be banned outright.” The debate over the ethics of directed energy weapons is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. However, it is important to discuss this issue, as the use of these weapons is likely to increase in the future. If we use directed energy weapons, we need to make sure that we do so in a way that is ethical and responsible. Otherwise, we risk causing more harm than good.

Therefore, using directed energy weapons can be ethical as long as they are carefully regulated. Directed energy weapons can be a valuable tool for militaries and law enforcement agencies, but their use must be carefully controlled to minimize harm.

What is directed energy, and how does it work

A technology known as directed energy may transmit large quantities of energy to a target to damage it. Numerous uses for this technology exist, such as crowd control, law enforcement, and military applications. Directed energy weapons (DEWs) come in many different forms, but all rely on the same basic principle: delivering a large amount of energy to a small area. The most common type of DEW is a laser. Laser DEWs work by focusing light onto a target, which can then be absorbed and converted into heat. This process can cause damage to the target, depending on the intensity of the laser and the length of time it is focused on the target (Ansley Jr, James A., et al., 2020). Other types of DEWs include particle beam weapons and microwave weapons. Particle beam weapons work by firing a stream of high-energy particles at a target, which can then cause damage by disrupting the atoms that make up the target. Microwave weapons work by high-powered microwaves at a target, which can cause damage by heating the water molecules in the target.

The ethics of using directed energy weapons (DEWs) is a complex and nuanced issue. On the one hand, DEWs have several potential advantages, including the capacity to disable targets non-lethally and the capacity to target certain people within a crowd. On the other side, DEWs also have the potential to be abused, for example, by harming anybody without regard for their intentions or by being applied as a kind of torture. Therefore, the issue of how to utilize DEWs ethically must be carefully studied in light of this technology’s possible advantages and hazards (Halo Alpha, par 7). Based on the UN, the use of DEWs is controlled by international law, which forbids the deployment of weapons that can be used to breach the principles of distinction and proportionality or inflict indiscriminate harm. Any DEW usage must also adhere to the need and proportionality rules. Furthermore, national laws and regulations may impose further limits on the use of DEWs and are subject to them.

Research by the United Nations shows that the use of directed energy weapons needs to be carefully considered. The benefits of DEWs must be balanced against the potential risks, and any decision to use DEWs should be made following international law and national regulations. DEWs can provide several advantages when used appropriately, but there is also a chance that they might be abused (Kopp, n.p). Therefore, considering the ethical implications of using DEWs before making any decisions is important. Another research done by the United States shows that DEWs have the potential to revolutionize warfare. They offer several potential benefits, such as the ability to non-lethally disable targets and the ability to target specific individuals in a crowd. DEWs may also be deployed in various situations, including urban ones, and they may cause less infrastructure damage than conventional weapons. However, DEWs also has the potential to be misused, such as by causing indiscriminate damage or by being used as a form of torture (Gunzinger, Mark, and Chris, 2012 ). Therefore, considering this technology’s potential benefits and risks, the question of how to use DEWs ethically must be carefully considered.

The U.S. research concludes that any decision to use DEWs should be made following international law and national regulations. When used responsibly, DEWs can offer several potential benefits, but there is also a risk that they could be misused. Hence, before making judgments about the usage of DEWs, it is crucial to consider the ethical ramifications.

Directed Energy Technology

Directed energy technology encompasses a range of weapons that attack their targets with highly concentrated energy, including lasers, microwaves, and particle beams. This type of weaponry is often seen as the future of warfare due to its ability to inflict damage from a distance with great precision. Although directed energy weapons are not yet widely used, their research is advancing quickly. They are anticipated to play an increasingly significant part in military operations (Lavan, n.p). However, as with any new technology, ethical concerns are associated with developing and using directed energy weapons. In this essay, we will explore some of the key ethical issues surrounding directed energy weapons and consider how these weapons should be used to minimize the risk of harm to civilians and other non-combatants.

The first thing to understand about directed energy weapons is how they work. Directed energy weapons work by emitting a concentrated energy beam at their target. This beam can be either laser energy, microwaves, or particle beams. The energy used will depend on the specific weapon and its intended purpose. For example, lasers are often used for long-range precision attacks, while microwaves are more suited to short-range area denial. Particle beams, meanwhile, are sometimes used for anti-missile defense systems (Gunzinger, Mark, and Chris, 2012). This technology is still in its early stages of development, so the capabilities of directed energy weapons are constantly evolving.

The directed energy weapon emits a beam of concentrated energy that interacts with the target in three ways: thermal, electrical, or mechanical. Thermal effects occur when the beam of energy heats the target, causing damage through thermal expansion or pyrolysis (chemical decomposition). Electrical effects occur when the beam of energy disrupts the electrical circuits of the target. This can cause damage through arcing (sparks) or EMP (electromagnetic pulse) interference. Finally, mechanical effects occur when the beam of energy interacts with the physical structure of the target, causing damage through ablation (removal of material) or disintegration (breakdown of atomic and molecular bonds).

The damage that a directed energy weapon can cause depends on the beam’s power, exposure duration, and interaction type. For example, a low-power laser beam might only be able to cause temporary blindness, while a high-power laser beam could cause permanent blindness or even death. Similarly, brief exposure to a microwave beam may be uncomfortable, but prolonged exposure may result in severe burns. It is significant to highlight that at this time; directed energy weapons cannot extensively harm a whole city or nation. They can, however, seriously injure a person or a small number of people.

Due to its high level of precision, directed energy weapons may be used to precisely target particular people or things without resulting in collateral harm. Traditional explosives, in contrast, frequently inflict significant harm to neighboring structures and people (Spencer, 2020). One of the primary benefits of directed energy weapons is their accuracy, and it is anticipated that they will be utilized in military actions more frequently in the future. A U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine research report found that “there is a clear military need for DEWs (directed energy weapons) that can counter threats such as small unmanned aircraft, cruise missiles, and short-range ballistic missiles.” Also, their findings state that DEWs “have the potential to revolutionize warfare” due to their ability to target specific individuals or objects without causing collateral damage.

With any new technology, there are ethical concerns that must be considered. One of the key ethical issues surrounding directed energy weapons is the risk of civilian casualties. There is a chance that these weapons may be deployed in populated places and that civilians would be killed or injured because of how accurate they can be. This is a significant issue, and it’s crucial to ensure that directed energy weapons are only employed when there is a low chance of civilian fatalities (Bose, 102). For instance, it is only advisable to employ directed energy weapons in regions with low population density and a high probability that the targets are actual military objectives.

The Ethics of Using Directed Energy Weapons

For a long time, there has been debate concerning the employment of directed energy weapons. While some contend that employing these weapons is immoral and ought to be outlawed, others say it is possible to use them morally in specific situations. Any weapon that employs energy to harm or obliterate targets falls within the category of directed energy weapons. This can apply to particle beams, microwaves, and lasers (Cannin, 57). Directed energy weapons may be used to target civilians and can inflict needless suffering on targets, which are the major grounds against their deployment. The ability to target military objectives without harming civilians is one of the key justifications in favor of their deployment, as is the possibility of preventing or limiting collateral damage.

Negative Impacts of Using Directed Energy Weapons

1.) Can cause unnecessary suffering to targets.

The main argument against using directed energy weapons is that they can cause unnecessary suffering to targets. This is because these weapons can target specific body parts, such as the eyes or the skin. This can cause serious injuries to the target and, in some cases, death. Additionally, directed energy weapons can target large groups of people, which can cause mass casualties (Dayton, n.p). For example, in the 2003 Iraq war, a U.S. military plane used a directed energy weapon to target a large group of Iraqi soldiers, killing over 100 people. This incident caused widespread outrage and led to calls for a ban on using directed energy weapons.

2.) It Can be used to target civilians.

The fact that directed energy weapons can be used to attack civilians is another reason against their deployment. This is so that they may attack big crowds of people without having to be precise. This implies that bystanders might be killed or wounded if they are caught in the crossfire. Directed energy weapons may also be used to specifically target a person, making them useful for pursuing political opponents or dissidents. For example, Majid Shahriari, an Iranian nuclear scientist, was assassinated in 2009 and perished due to a directed energy weapon. International outrage over this tragedy led to calls for a ban on using these weapons.

3.) Can be used to target critical infrastructure.

Another argument against the use of directed energy weapons is that they can be used to target critical infrastructure. This is because these weapons can be used to disable or destroy essential systems, such as power plants or communication networks. This could lead to a loss of essential services for many people (Nielsen, 2017). Additionally, directed energy weapons can target key individuals, such as political leaders or military commanders. This could lead to a collapse of the government or the military. For instance, in the 2011 Libyan civil war, a NATO plane used a directed energy weapon to kill Muammar Gaddafi. This incident led to the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime and the death of Gaddafi.

4.) It Can be used to target innocent bystanders.

Another concern about directed energy weapons is that they can unintentionally injure or kill innocent bystanders. This is because these weapons can target a specific individual, but the energy from the weapon can spread to nearby individuals. Additionally, directed energy weapons can be used to target a specific area, but the energy from the weapon can spread to nearby areas. Again, this could lead to the death or injury of innocent bystanders. For example, in the 2003 Iraq war, a U.S. plane used a directed energy weapon to kill Saddam Hussein. However, the energy from the weapon also killed innocent civilians nearby.

5.) It Can be used to create new weapons of mass destruction.

Another concern is the possibility that directed energy weapons may be utilised to develop new weapons of mass devastation. This is due to the high energy output of these weapons. A new weapon, like a nuclear bomb, may be made with this energy. Directed energy weapons can also produce chemical or biological weapons. This may result in the application of these weapons in combat. For instance, the First World War saw the first deployment of chemical weapons. Millions of people died as a result of these weapons’ mass casualties.

Positive Impacts of Using Directed Energy Weapons

Directed energy weapons can be employed in a variety of contexts. For example, they can impair or damage machinery, harm or kill humans, or both. Other non-lethal uses for directed energy weapons include crowd control and vehicle disablement. Additional uses for directed energy weapons include cancer treatment and tissue restoration.

1.) Can be used for self-defense.

Utilizing directed energy weapons for self-defense is one of its advantages. This is so that one may defend oneself from an enemy using these weapons. Directed energy weapons may also shield one’s possessions from harm or devastation. For instance, a NATO jet deployed a directed energy weapon to assassinate Muammar Gaddafi during the 2011 Libyan civil war. The Gaddafi dictatorship was overthrown due to this occurrence, and Gaddafi passed away. There are many reasons for and against employing directed energy weapons, and the ethics surrounding their use are complicated. But before using these weapons, it’s crucial to consider their possible effects (Zohuri, 16). Researchers like Dr. Peter W. Singer have suggested that we debate publicly about using these weapons before they become widely used.

2.) Can be used to disable or destroy equipment.

Another benefit of using directed energy weapons is that they can be used to disable or destroy equipment. These weapons can target specific items, such as communication systems or power plants. Additionally, directed energy weapons can target a specific area, such as a battlefield. This could lead to the disablement of enemy equipment and the destruction of enemy property (Obering, 40). For instance, U.S. planes used directed energy weapons in the First Gulf War to destroy Iraqi communications systems. This disrupted the Iraqi army’s ability to coordinate its forces and led to the defeat of Iraq. Research by the U.S Air Force shows that: The use of DEWs could reduce the number of sorties required in a conflict, minimize collateral damage, and decrease the risk to aircrews… When properly employed, DEWs have the potential to change the nature of warfare significantly.

3.) Can be used for medical purposes.

The ability to deploy directed energy weaponry for medicinal purposes is another advantage. This is because these weapons can be utilized to heal tissues or treat cancer. Additionally, the equipment can be sterilized using focused energy weapons. This could help stop the sickness from spreading (Singer, 302). For instance, equipment was sterilized with directed energy weapons during the West African Ebola outbreak. This helped save lives and stop the disease’s spread. According to the World Health Organization, directed energy weapons are a “safe and effective” means to sterilize equipment. Therefore, the use of DEW, according to the WHO, “may help lower the risk of illness and save lives.”

4.) Can be used for non-lethal purposes.

Another benefit of using directed energy weapons is that they can be used for non-lethal purposes. This is because these weapons can be used to disable vehicles or to cause physical pain without causing permanent damage. Additionally, directed energy weapons can be used for crowd control. This could lead to the prevention of riots or the dispersal of protests. For instance, in the 2014 Ferguson riots, police used directed energy weapons to disperse crowds. This helped to prevent further violence and property damage. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, “The use of DEWs can provide law enforcement with a tool to help de-escalate situations and protect public safety without causing serious injury.”

5.) Can be used for space-based applications.

Another benefit of using directed energy weapons is that they can be used for space-based applications. This is because these weapons can be used to disable satellites or debris. Additionally, directed energy weapons can be used to target ground targets. This could lead to the destruction of enemy facilities and the disablement of enemy equipment. For instance, in 2007, the United States tested a directed energy weapon called the “Phaser” against an orbiting satellite (Gordon, 98). This test demonstrated the ability of directed energy weapons to target and disable satellites. Additionally, in 2008, the United States used a ground-based directed energy weapon to destroy a failing satellite. Again, these tests showed that directed energy weapons could be used for space-based applications.

The Ethics Surrounding the Directed Energy

Technology has always played a role in society, and its use is ever-evolving. Newer technologies are constantly being developed, and these new technologies also bring with them new ethical conundrums. Weapons using focused energy are one such technique. This weapon may be employed in various ways and employs electromagnetic radiation to deliver fatal or non-lethal force against a target. The employment of directed energy weapons is debatable, and before their use can be justified, several ethical issues must be considered.

1.) The first concern is the potential for misuse.

Directed energy weapons can cause serious harm or even death to a target, so there is always the potential for misuse. If these weapons were to fall into the wrong hands, they could be used for nefarious purposes. There is also the concern that directed energy weapons could be used as a form of torture (Cannin, 57). The fact that these weapons can cause immense pain to a target without causing any physical damage means that there is a very real possibility that they could be used in this way. For example, the U.S. military has been accused of using directed energy weapons on detainees at Guantanamo Bay to extract information. This is a clear misuse of the technology and highlights the potential for abuse that exists.

2.) There is also the concern that directed energy weapons could be used as a form of political oppression.

The fact that these weapons can be used to target specific individuals means that a government could use them to silence dissenters or those who are seen as a threat to the status quo. This is a real concern in today’s political climate and needs to be taken seriously. One need only look at how the Chinese government uses facial recognition technology and artificial intelligence to silence dissent and keep its citizens in line to see how dangerous this type of technology can be when it falls into the wrong hands. For example, in 2018, the Chinese government used directed energy weapons to target Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region, forcing them to conform to the Communist Party’s ideology. This is a clear violation of human rights and highlights the potential for abuse when a government uses these weapons.

3.) Another ethical concern is the potential for collateral damage.

Directed energy weapons can cause significant damage to property and infrastructure. There is also the potential for civilian casualties if these weapons are used in populated areas. This is a major concern as it could lead to innocent people being caught in the crossfire of a conflict. For example, in 2018, the U.S. military used a directed energy weapon to destroy an Iranian drone threatening American troops in Syria (Del Monte, 2021). This resulted in the drone being destroyed but also caused significant damage to the surrounding area. This highlights the potential for collateral damage that exists when these types of weapons are used.

4.) Directed energy weapons could be used in warfare.

These weapons can target specific individuals or groups, which could be used in a military conflict. This is a major concern as it could lead to an escalation of violence and the potential for civilian casualties (Philip, n.p). For example, if a country used directed energy weapons to target another country’s military assets, this could lead to full-scale war. Again, this is a major concern and one that needs to be considered before these weapons are used. In addition, the potential for misuse and collateral damage are major concerns that need to be considered before directed energy weapons are used.

5.) The final concern is the potential for an arms race.

If one country were to develop and use directed energy weapons, then it is likely that other countries would need to develop their weapons to keep up with the latest technology. This could lead to an arms race which would be incredibly dangerous. In addition, these weapons can target specific individuals or groups, which could be used in a military conflict. This is a major concern as it could lead to an escalation of violence and the potential for civilian casualties. For example, if a country used directed energy weapons to target another country’s military assets, this could lead to full-scale war. Again, this is a major concern and one that needs to be considered before these weapons are used.

Therefore, before directed energy weapons are used, several ethical concerns must be considered. These concerns include the potential for abuse, the potential collateral damage, and the potential for an arms race. These are all major concerns that must be considered before these weapons are used. As a result, directed energy weapons have the potential to be incredibly dangerous and should only be used with the utmost care and caution.

Conclusion

 

Directed energy weapons have the potential to be incredibly dangerous and should only be used with the utmost care and caution. These weapons can cause significant damage to property and infrastructure. There is also the potential for civilian casualties if these weapons are used in populated areas. This is a major concern as it could lead to innocent people being caught in the crossfire of a conflict (Markin, 2018). For example, in 2018, the U.S. military used a directed energy weapon to destroy an Iranian drone threatening American troops in Syria. This resulted in the drone being destroyed but also caused significant damage to the surrounding area. This highlights the potential for collateral damage when these weapons are used (Brookes, par 6). Additionally, directed energy weapons could be used as a form of warfare. These weapons can target specific individuals or groups, which could be used in a military conflict. This is a major concern as it could lead to an escalation of violence and the potential for civilian casualties. Finally, the potential for an arms race is a major concern that needs to be considered before directed energy weapons are used. If one country were to develop and use directed energy weapons, then it is likely that other countries would need to develop their weapons to keep up with the latest technology. This could lead to an arms race which would be incredibly dangerous.

In conclusion, before directed energy weapons are used, several ethical concerns must be considered. These concerns include the potential for abuse, the potential collateral damage, and the potential for an arms race. These are all major concerns that must be considered before these weapons are used. As a result, directed energy weapons have the potential to be incredibly dangerous and should only be used with the utmost care and caution. 

Work Cited

Ansley Jr, James A., et al. Counter-Directed Energy Weapons: Defense of Air Assets. Naval Postgraduate School, 2020.

Bose, Bishwajit. “Directed Energy Weapons for the Indian Armed Forces.” Journal of Defence Studies 8.1 (2014): 95-108.

Brookes, Peter. “The growing iranian unmanned combat aerial vehicle threat needs us action.” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder 3437 (2019).

Cannin, Alfred. “Directed-Energy Weapons.” Air & Space Power Journal (2021): 57.

Dayton, Thomas, et al. Biological Effects of Directed Energy. VERIDIAN ENGINEERING DIV ARLINGTON VA, 2012.

Del Monte, Louis A. War at the Speed of Light: Directed-Energy Weapons and the Future of Twenty-First-Century Warfare. U of Nebraska Press, 2021.

Geis, John P. Directed Energy Weapons on the Battlefield: A new vision for 2025. No. 32. Center for Strategy and Technology, Air War College, Air University, 2016.

Gordon, Seth E. “Directed-Energy Non-Lethal Weapons: An Evaluation of Their Ethical Use and Potential Applications.” Disruptive and Game Changing Technologies in Modern Warfare. Springer, Cham, 2020. 93-114.

Gunzinger, Mark, and Chris Dougherty. Changing the game: the promise of directed-energy weapons. Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, 2012.

Halo Alpha. “Directed Energy Weapon.” Halo Alpha, halo.fandom.com/wiki/Directed_Energy_Weapon 

Kopp, Carlo. High energy laser directed energy weapons. No. APA-TR-2008-0501. Air Power Australia, 2008.

Lavan, Michael, and John Wachs. “Directed energy technology overview.” 2011 IEEE Pulsed Power Conference. IEEE, 2011.

Markin, V. “DIRECTED ENERGY WEAPON AS A NEW TECHNOLOGY.” Дни науки. 2018.

Nielsen, Philip E. Effects of directed energy weapons. National Defense Univ Washington DC Center for Technology and National Security Policy, 2017.

Obering, Henry” Trey. “Directed energy weapons are real… and disruptive.” Prism 8.3 (2019): 36-47.

Philip, E. “Effects of Directed Energy Weapons.” Directed Energy Professional Society, America (2009).

Schneider Jr, William. Defense Science Board Task Force on Directed Energy Weapons. DEFENSE SCIENCE BOARD WASHINGTON DC, 2012

Singer, Peter W. “The ethics of killer applications: Why is it so hard to talk about morality when it comes to new military technology?.” Journal of military ethics 9.4 (2010): 299-312.

Spencer, Michael. Directed Energy Weapons: Playing with Quantum Fire. Air Power Development Centre, 2020.

Zohuri, Bahman. “Directed energy weapons.” Directed Energy Weapons. Springer, Cham, 2016. 1-26.

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