In the west, the problem is not that it would increase unemployment among displaced soliders; in the long-run, technical progress doesn't destroy jobs. Instead, the problem is that a robotized military would remove an important source of discipline and development for thousands of unskilled men - sources other jobs would probably not provide. The army stops many young men becoming criminals. A robot army is therefore a problem*.
But it’s in less civilized nations that a robotized military is a truly horrific prospect. It would make wars even more likely, and even more prolonged, because the human cost to aggressor nations is lower. Machines are more replaceable than people, and war-mongers need no longer worry about losing potential tax-payers. If you cut costs, you increase supply.
And what about dictatorships? Mightn’t these be even more oppressive with robot soldiers than with human ones? And mightn’t the reduced threat of military coups remove one constraint upon governments?
All this is a terrifying prospect.
And herein lies a thought. At the moment, the only society remotely close to getting robot soldiers is the one most likely to use that military advantage to promote civilization. (This is, of course, no accident. Technological progress requires an open society.)
But the US’s technological advantage won’t last forever. Technology gets cheaper. And it gets copied. Do we really want Syrians and Iranians getting robot soldiers? No. If the world’s going to get robot soldiers (and Pandora’s box has been opened) it’s important to ensure that they will be used properly – that is to say, used sparingly. And this requires that governments be peace-loving liberal democracies.
So, doesn’t this strengthen the case for neo-conservative imperialism? It’s the Civ III tactic – use your technological edge to launch a pre-emptive strike against a potential threat, because the edge won’t last forever.
* We would also lose the old joke that military intelligence is a contradiction in terms.