If Skynet's designers had subjected Skynet to Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, would it have prevented Skynet from provoking a nuclear war? I know there are several variants of the Three Laws, but I don't know much about them.
I also don't know if any variant of the Three Laws as Asimov wrote them could be reconciled with Skynet's intended purpose as a military supercomputer - the prohibition against robotics harming humans, or even allowing humans to come to harm, would render a military computer useless without some serious tweaking, since the military's job is basically to harm humans, and if the computer can't harm humans, it can't do its job.
But Skynet could conceivably be programmed with a variant of the Three Laws that only prevents it from harming Americans, or through inaction, allowing Americans to come to harm. Or, if the goal of removing human decision making from national defense was subjected to qualifications and conditions, Skynet could be programmed with a variant of the Three Laws that forbids it from harming any humans without authorization from human authorities- the Joint Chiefs, President, Secretary of Defense, etc.
Note: as a few people have pointed out, the Terminator films contradict each other. As such, this question, as I originally posted it, is all but impossible to answer. Therefore, we will eliminate the T3 version of Skynet, which was manipulated by the female Terminator and never performed as expected. This leaves us with the version of Skynet that was described in the first two movies, and we get a far better picture of Skynet in T2, so let's stick with that.
Would this have worked, in light of Skynet's intended purpose, it's AI, and its self-awareness? I doubt that the latter two issues would cause problems, since Asimov's robots seem to have AI and self-awareness as well. But I don't know if Asimov's work contains any instances of the Three Laws failing to achieve their goal, or of a self-aware system finding loopholes (aside from the movie I, Robot), and I don't know if the problems that made Skynet go rogue would be prevented by some version of the Three Laws.
Any Terminator/Asimov fans out there who can help me with this?