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The Impact of Emerging Technologies on the Law of Armed Conflict$
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Ronald T.P. Alcala and Eric Talbot Jensen

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780190915322

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190915322.001.0001

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Assessing LOAC Compliance and Discourse as New Technologies Emerge

Assessing LOAC Compliance and Discourse as New Technologies Emerge

From Effects-Driven Analysis to “What Effects?”

(p.27) 2 Assessing LOAC Compliance and Discourse as New Technologies Emerge
The Impact of Emerging Technologies on the Law of Armed Conflict

Laurie R. Blank

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the consequences for effective discourse about the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) compliance of new technologies that intentionally or effectively mask the effects of an attack, the location or identify of the attackers, or even the very existence of an attack during armed conflict. The emergence of new weapons technologies that hinder or eliminate our ability to see the effects of attacks, to make the necessary connections between cause and effect, or to even identify the existence of an attack, may well erode the current trend towards the use of effects-driven, outcome-based analysis, which, although incorrect as a matter of law, nonetheless has captured attention. Examining how legal compliance can or would be assessed in such situations of new technologies is therefore useful to help enhance both implementation and analysis of the law. The chapter first frames the problem that new technologies may pose for assessing LOAC compliance, highlighting what may be, in essence, a new “effects problem.” These problems include situations where the effects of an attack are unclear or cannot be seen at all, where the connection between the weapon or attacker and the effects cannot be identified, and where a harm may occur but it is unclear or impossible to tell that there was an attack. The chapter then addresses the consequences of this potential new “effects problem,” examining the challenges of legal analysis in the absence of externally identifiable information about what happened, who suffered what effects, or who launched what type of weapon or attack. In addition, the chapter seeks to identify pressure points for LOAC analysis in the context of new technologies that place stressors on the traditional tools and touchstones of legal analysis.

Keywords:   Armed conflict, Weapons, Weapons control, Armed attack

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