It’s a commonly accepted tenet of both warfare and gamesmanship that the best defense is a good offense.

This is wrong.

As anyone with any basis in the underlying concepts of space-age warfare can tell you, the best defense is a force field.

But combining defense, like a force field, with offense, like a tank, as the British military is doing right now? Well, that’s just some diabolically clever shit right there.

But will it be a match for the battleship mounted, weapons-grade laser being developed by Boeing right now? Only time will tell.

Well, time and the inevitable Mech War of 2019.

The New York Times is reporting that more than 120 American soldiers stationed in Iraq are thought to have come down with or be carrying the A/H1N1 swine flu virus that continues to spread at alarming rates throughout the world.

Iraq has been exceedingly wary of the A/H1N1 virus, sending health teams to meet international flights and quarantining passengers showing symptoms of swine flu. But US soldiers who aren’t subjected to these screenings represent a gaping hole in Iraqi defense against the virus. And with this news, it appears the other sick, coughing boot has finally dropped on the matter.

So despite it’s best precautions, Iraq can probably expect it’s first domestic case of swine flu in the coming weeks, probably to be followed by a slew of stories about how ill prepared for an epidemic the nation is. Cases of swine flu have a certain cockroach like quality to them – when you see one, you’ve got a lot more you don’t know about. And if more than 100 soldiers are suspected of having swine flu, it’s a safe bet that one of the many members of the Iraqi military and police they come in contact with on a daily basis has become a vector for the disease, too.

Which is – you guessed it! –  more bad news for Iraqis, who at this point should, frankly, really be used to it.

Oh, BBC, you’ve put me in a wicket that is ever so sticky.

On the one hand, I’m as ready as anyone for a serious rethinking of how we use Predators and other UAVs in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s particularly important in the latter theater, where civilian casualties caused by drone strikes play a major part in turning public opinion against US and NATO forces. The fact of the matter is that we don’t win the war against the Taliban in the region until we end public perception that we are the enemy, and we don’t end that perception until we stop killing civilians. Because frankly, until we stop killing civilians, we are the enemy to the vast majority of people on the ground in Afghanistan.

Since I’m on record as feeling this way, I couldn’t be happier to hear that Professor Noel Sharkey, who has been talking for years about the need for a reconsideration of whether the new face of modern warfare is a net improvement. For the soldiers who get to control these heavily armed automatons from half a world away, it certainly seems like it. But if we’re unable to distinguish civilian from combatant – a task that’s often difficult enough for a soldier on the ground – then are we really making wars more winnable? Or are we just making the rules a little different?

America - Are You Going To Let A Robot Fight Your Battles For You?

America - Are You Going To Let A Robot Fight Your Battles For You?

Maybe, by their definition, there’s no such thing as a safe weapon. But there’s a clear line between weapons that are ready to be used safely and ones that aren’t. And it’s time for a serious conversation about where UAVs and other robotic weaponry are in that process. Are they highly advanced? No doubt – technology has made undeniable strides from the days when all that robot warriors could do was rock ’em and/or sock ’em. But are they fool proof? Hardly, and when they’re not, the results are disastrous. So yeah, I’m happy that the media is giving the subject some love.

But really, BBC – did you have to run Jason Palmer’s excellent story on the matter under the headline ‘Call for debate on killer robots‘?