DASICON2018 We need to talk about Europe! The European Union's Challenges & Opportunities Ahead.

DASICON2016: Hackers, Contractors and Drones. Warfare in the 21st Century

Although still in its infancy, the nascent 21st Century has already witnessed huge shifts in the manner in which warfare is waged. Changes in the nature of threats posed by a rapidly evolving security environment, coupled with the technologies and tactics used to counter them, have ensured that the world is already a considerably different and in all likelihood more dangerous place than it was at the turn of the millennium. Indeed, some of the biggest headlines of the previous decade and a half have revolved around the changing nature of warfare.

Given their obvious importance to hugely affect both the private and public sector globally, the 12th DASI Conference () endeavors to provide a forum in which conference attendants may become better informed regarding increasingly key and expanding areas of warfare in the 21st Century. To this end, students of the Diplomatic Academy highlighted the following areas as meriting further debate: asymmetric warfare, cyber warfare, private military contractors (PMCs), drones and robotics and finally, potential future causes of warfare in the 21st Century. Given the huge capacity which these areas possess in their ability to radically alter both contemporary and future battlefields, the student-body of the DA as a whole feel that on both an academic and societal level, more discourse is needed.

In terms of asymmetric warfare, from the World Trade Center to Bataclan, Westgate Shopping Mall to the Sinai Russian airliner bombing, terrorism has truly become a global phenomenon that merits discussion. Yet likewise we are interested in discovering whether economic reliance, globalisation and modern technology have confined traditional symmetric warfare to the history books? How has the proliferation of asymmetric conflicts affected the P5+1 nation’s abilities to wage symmetric warfare? Is it possible to win a modern conventional asymmetric conflict or are mission creep, quagmire and unsatisfactory results inevitable for the more powerful side or state entity?

Likewise, we live in a world of cyber warfare. A world in which cyber-attacks against Estonia, Georgia or indeed the U.S. DOD and Sony have awakened global society to a new yet no less insidious form of waging war, with the capacity to wreak havoc on a massive scale. Thus, concerning cyber risk and security, panellists will discuss what defensive measures are open to organisations and nations to prevent a cyber-attack along with exploring if, from a legal perspective, what measures have been taken to ensure that the cyber-realm does not become a modern-day ‘Wild West’?

Regarding drones & robotics, numbers sometimes speak louder than words, and thus the fact alone that the U.S. operated less than 50 in 2000, yet would possess over 7500 by 2012 should leave the reader in no doubt as to the massive explosion in the use of this technology and its perceived utility as being less intrusive. Our speakers will be outlining what the contemporary/short to medium term envisaged capabilities of armed drone and robot possessing nations are, before asking whether the world stands on a precipice in terms of large-scale armed drone proliferation? Has the dawning of the age of drones and robotics made going to war easier? Is contemporary international law adequately equipped to deal with the rise of this technology?

Pertaining to private military contractors, the contemporary world almost harks back to the Middle Ages given that it is once more possible to put a private army into the field in support of one’s cause – consider the struggle against Boko Haram for example, it is evident that it is now possible to hire private military contractors to prop up governments who, in many instances, can provide the ability to field and maintain their own airpower, armour and infantry. Our speakers shall discuss for example, whether given the well-publicised controversies by PMCS such as Blackwater and Aegis Defence Services, to what extent are PMCS now regulated and operating within the law? What is the effectiveness of PMCs? What is the current state of contemporary PMCs, where are they operating? What tools are at their disposal? How does the U.S and Russian approach to PMCs differ?

Finally, our last panel will focus on potential causes of warfare in the 21st Century and asks what the likelihood is that coming wars will be fought not over ideology but over access to dwindling supplies of precious natural commodities? What is the most likely cause of conflict in the short to medium term? Are current IOs and multilateral diplomacy capable of preventing them? Is Realpolitik the only real game in town or can multilateral diplomacy effectively combat this approach to statecraft?

The conference was covered by the renowned Austrian radio broadcasting station Ö1. The online article can be found here.