Beginning on November 4th, 2015, the American Academy convened at the United States Military Academy at West Point a group of scholars and practitioners for the second authors’ workshop on the upcoming two-volume special issue of Dædalus in Fall 2016 and Winter 2017 entitled. These issues of Dædalus are part of a larger initiative on New Dilemmas in Ethics, Technology and War, which seeks to understand how the development and evolution of military technology are challenging the conventional rules of warfare, as well as accepted principles of just war doctrine and international humanitarian law.
It is my pleasure to welcome you to our conference on ethics, technology and war, which extends yesterday’s discussion of essays for a forthcoming double issue of the American Academy’s journal, Dædalus.
This conference broadens the discussion to include scholars, practitioners, and NGO leaders, as we explore issues of immediate and abiding significance. These issues include: human rights and warfare, including the protection of noncombatants and the international community’s responsibility to protect, even prevent, war crimes and mass atrocities.
Both issues resonate powerfully with me personally from my time as Chair of Human Rights Watch and my work at the MacArthur Foundation to support Lloyd Axworthy in creating the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, which framed the R2P norm.
This meeting is born out of the collaboration between two important institutions that have—each in its own way—served the American public good for centuries. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences was founded in 1780, and the West Point Academy in 1802, only twenty-two years apart. The core mission of both institutions is well-captured in their respective mottos. The American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ aims “To cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people.” The West Point motto is, “Duty, Honor, Country.”
Both institutions were established with the overarching goal to serve the American public good, by bringing together both civilian and military leaders committed to serving society, in the pursuit of individual and collective happiness and security.
I often cite the New Dilemmas on Ethics, Technology and War project as a model for the American Academy at its best, bringing together scholars, policy-makers, and leaders from the military, NGOs, and the private sector to confront critical and complex challenges.
The Academy has no agenda but to serve the common good, not only for Americans but also for people the world over. We are independent, non-ideological, nonpartisan, and committed to thoughtful inquiry that respects evidence.
From the beginning, the American Academy welcomed military leaders, starting with George Washington who was elected in 1781. While leading the Continental Army at New Windsor, General Washington wrote his acceptance letter to the Academy, in which he said “the Arts & Sciences essential to the prosperity of the State & to the ornament & happiness of human life have a primary claim to the encouragement of every lover of his Country & mankind.”
Since Washington, the Academy has elected other prominent military leaders such as Andrew Goodpaster and Colin Powell as well as three Secretaries of War and three Secretaries of Defense from Samuel Dexter in 1800 to Robert Gates in 2009. And we have gathered today at the historic Thayer Hotel, named for the “Father of West Point,” Colonel Sylvanus Thayer. As many of you will know, Colonel Thayer was a Brevet Brigadier General and superintendent of the Military Academy at West Point from 1817 to 1833 and an early advocate for engineering education in the United States. Colonel Thayer was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1834.
Today is not the first time that the Academy has collaborated with military personnel. The Academy’s tradition dates back to the Revolutionary War, when Barnabus Binney, a surgeon for the Continental Army, sent regular accounts of medical injuries from the frontlines to Academy Fellows for analysis. In 1848, the Navy Department requested the Academy provide recommendations for a congressionally-funded sailing expedition to Chile. And more recently, 1973 West Point graduate Ambassador Karl Eikenberry is launching a new project on the threat to global security posed by weak and fragile states.
Our topic today, preventing crimes against humanity and respecting human rights in conflict, is part of a larger portfolio of Academy projects concerned with human security.
In addition to the Ethics, Technology and War project, next month we will launch two new initiatives. The first is the project with Ambassador Eikenberry on fragile and failing states. This project will analyze the national and global security implications of weak states and will identify policy recommendations for the international community to stabilize fragile states and limit the consequences when weak states do collapse.
The second project will examine the distinctive elements and defining characteristics of the current, contemporary nuclear age, and will explore the drivers of changing nuclear postures among nuclear weapons states and the status of global nuclear cooperation and governance.
Recently, the Academy has also launched an exploratory fund that is available to members who want to investigate new topics and potentially develop further studies out of these topics. One meeting we are convening in March examines the widening gap between global and regional studies, and the resulting implications for the ability of the international relations and area studies communities to formulate viable and successful policies.
Another meeting in preparation will consider the tension between national security and academic freedom. This stems from a conversation Scott Sagan, Francesca Giovannini, and I had with Andrew Hurrell, Professor of International Relations at Oxford, which we are eager to continue. What prompted Professor Hurrell to raise this topic was a recent policy called “Duty to Prevent.” This policy requires universities in the U.K. to screen syllabi and visiting professors’ curricula and to report to the government any academic whose scholarship might be considered politically radical or extremist. The government argues that this is necessary to prevent faculty from using the classroom to radicalize students, while universities argue that this is a serious infringement of academic freedom.
I personally believe this issue is tremendously important and deserves careful consideration. And I welcome your suggestions for people to invite to our meeting.
In closing, I think the Academy’s founders would be pleased to know that this group of highly accomplished individuals has gathered here today to discuss the humanitarian impact of war and conflict.
In the words of Academy founder James Bowdoin, “It is the part of a patriot philosopher to pursue every hint—to cultivate every enquiry which may eventually tend to the security and welfare of his fellow citizens, the extension of their commerce, and the improvement of those arts, which adorn and embellish life.” I think James Bowdoin would be pleased to see the patriot philosophers gathered here today tending to “the security and welfare” of people across the globe.
At this point, Dr. Fanton turned the program over to Scott Sagan, Caroline S.G. Munro Professor of Political Science at Stanford University and Senior Fellow at Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation, and chair of the Academy’s New Dilemmas in Ethics, Technology and War project.
Back to Academy President