Ethics and Technologies of War

National Security College | Professional course



Contact us at to express interest or to discuss how we can tailor this program for your organisation.

Decisions around war and warfare are invariably tied to matters of life, death and national survival. This course examines ethical norms of the use of armed force for political purposes with a particular focus on the relationship between those norms and military technologies. You will explore how, and the extent to which, ethical and technological considerations can and should influence strategic and tactical decisions.

As globalisation brings different peoples into closer contact, armed conflicts continue around the world, including in places where Australia’s military is or could be deployed. There is ongoing political debate over whether or how particular wars should be fought and with what kinds of technology.

This one-day program provides participants with an opportunity to engage with big ideas and high-stakes issues in a particularly dynamic and contested area of scholarship and policymaking. It aims to provide participants with a stronger understanding of the strategic, operational, political and ethical concerns surrounding these issues, their security implications, and the conceptual and empirical connections between them.

War and ethics have a long interwoven history that traces back thousands of years. This ‘just war tradition’ has seen a deep engagement, exploration and evolution of core concepts. One of the reasons for this is that the particular issues and challenges are in a constant state of evolution. Technologies form a key driver in this evolution, and so this course draws from both the just war tradition and emerging military technologies.

This course will introduce you to the just war tradition, with a focus on the key ethical concepts that underpin the jus ad bellum criteria: just cause, legitimate authority, right intention, proportionality, last resort and probability of success; and the jus in bello criteria – discrimination and proportionality. You will also explore the ethics of emerging military technologies: non-lethal weapons, weapons of mass destruction, remote weapons like drones, and the emerging challenges of cyberwarfare.

By engaging with and debating these concepts, participants will gain a set of critical tools that apply to today’s ethical challenges in national security. Rather than providing specific answers, the course seeks to enhance your critical thinking skills, the confidence to ask the right questions, and to critique strategic, operational or tactical options and actions.

This course is designed for professionals, analysts and officers from all departments and agencies who may be specifically involved with the ethics of defence technology, or who seek a deeper understanding of this increasingly important subject for their professional responsibilities.


This program has not been scheduled for 2020 but will run if there is sufficient interest. Please email to register your interest.

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