Computers and War: The Legal Battlespace

Michael N. Schmitt, Heather A. Harrison Dinniss, Thomas C. Wingfield
Published: 
Jun 2004

The use of computers in modern warfare stretches back over decades. Computers have been employed for functions that range from managing materiel and personnel flows into an area of operations to sorting intelligence data and improving the precision capabilities of weapons. In recent conflicts, however, we have witnessed their transformation into a “means of warfare” (weapon) and modern militaries are busily developing information technology “methods of warfare.” This article briefly addresses the legal issues surrounding computer use in classic kinetic-based warfare. Attention then turns to the most significant phenomenon for humanitarian law, namely the employment of information technology during network-centric, four-dimensional operations, which increasingly characterize twentieth-first century conflict.