2019 Int'l Society for Military Ethics Conference: Space, War, and Ethics

June 29, 2019 - June 30, 2019
University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs
United States

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As a developing warfighting domain, space warfare needs to be treated with the same ethical scrutiny as all other domains of conflict, and the new Space Force needs to be subjected to the same scrutiny as the Navy, Army, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard. This conference offers an opportunity to bring together ethicists from around the world to debate questions about the ethics of space warfare.

Areas of discussion may include but are not limited to:

  • Do the requirements of Just War Theory (JWT) apply to the space environment?  Or is space warfare a special case (as some claim cyber is)?  
  • What are some of the problems posed by non-state groups and rogue states taking part in terrorist acts in space?
  • What will be the requirement for new technologies in space war?  What will be the impact on the human dimension of war?  What are the repercussions on geopolitical relationships and conflicts?
  • Much of the world now relies on satellites for navigation, time-keeping, food distribution, health systems, financial markets, communication, etc. Does this heavy reliance on satellites by civilian communities mean that some satellites should be given protected status in war, in a way similar to power plants and dams?  Does the military have “first rights” to the contested area of space, trumping civilian usage?
  • Is space warfare the ultimate example of remote war? Does this lower the threshold for war?  
  • Space debris is increasing as a problem for all nations in their use of space. How would conflict in space and the space debris problem mutually impact each other, and do the impacts alter how we should conduct conflict in space?
  • What problems does the rapid increase of commercial operators in the space environment (such as Space X) pose for the future of space conflict? Should private companies be allowed to have private security firms protecting and policing their space-based assets? What is the role of industry in space warfare?
  • What are some of the ethical challenges around the proposed creation of the US (or other national) Space Force?
  • What are some of the problems of dual-use technologies in the space environment?
  • The Woomera Manual on the International Law of Military Space Operations aims to be concluded by 2020. What are some of the ethical issues around codifying existing international law (lex lata) so as to make it applicable to military space operations?
  • Currently the Outer Space Treaty bans the use of weapons of mass destruction in space, but allows the use of conventional weapons. Should this distinction continue, and why?
  • If a manned mission is sent to Mars, who will have sovereignty over the planet, and who will arbitrate disputes between countries in regard to off-earth colonies and off-earth mining and resource collection? 

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