US Military Non-Lethal Weapons
Submitted by MCCLOSL@towers.com
ACOUSTIC ENERGY PROPERTIES
-- Mild to severe discomfort
-- Organ functional disturbance
-- Organ disruption
-- Ground or structure penetration
-- Long-range propagation
Sonic: 20 Hz to 20 kHz
-- Hearing interference
-- Performance degradation
-- Hearing loss
-- Tissue damage
-- Moderate propagation
-- Moderately directional
Ultrasonic: 20 kHz
-- Possible diffuse psychological effects
-- Surface tissue damage
-- Tissue destruction
-- Limited propagation
-- Highly directional
ACOUSTIC WEAPONS GRADUATED EFFECT
Effect on personnel inherently graduated by range and power level Detection (infrasonic/sonic) at medium to long range Hear/feel presence of energy Annoyance, irritation, interference with performance Infrasonic/sonic at medium power Ultrasonic at medium to high power Pain (a) Auditory (sonic/infrasonic) at medium to high power (b) Other organs (infrasonic/sonic/ultrasonic) at high power Incapacitation (very high power) Death Potential as area exclusion devices
Vortex Ring Generator Objective
Integrate concussion, flash, chemical, and impact methods of crowd control into a single vortex ring delivery system, with the intent of improving nonlethal effectiveness as well as reducing weight, cost, and logistics associated with stockpiling different cartridges.
Vortex Ring Generator Description
o Concept of operation
-- Attach muzzle adapter to barrel
-- Add a chemical tank
-- Fire blank flash-bang rounds to generate vortex rings
-- Impact targets by integrated chemical-flash-concussion impulses
o Desired performance
-- Knock down human target with single shot
-- Incapacitate via resonance effects
-- Incapacitate by single shot employing entrained chemical agent
Nonlethal Testing Conclusions/Observations
o Determining target effects on personnel is greatest challenge to testing community
o Wide variety of potential effects requires evaluation
o Potential for injury or death severely limits human testing
o Animal testing is limited
o Extrapolation of surrogate target test data not consistently reliable
o Antimaterial systems present difficult challenges
o Details of temporary upset mechanisms not readily measurable
o Human presence (integral and collateral) limits testing scenarios
Technologies, Legalities, and Potential Policies
Maj Joseph W. Cook, III,
Maj David P. Fiely, Maj Maura T. McGowan
From A.D. 1200 to 1500 a group of mercenaries on the Italian peninsula called the condottieri waged what has often been regarded as a form of nonlethal warfare. They were hired by the various mercantile city-states to protect vital interests. Many of the major engagements between these city-states' condottieri were almost comical for their lack of casualties.
According to Niccolo Machiavelli, the battle of Zagonara in 1424 was a "defeat, famous throughout all Italy, [in which] no death occurred except those of Lodovico degli Obizi and two of his people, who, having fallen from their horses, were drowned in the mire."1 Several reasons have been extended for this low lethality. One of the more plausible reasons was the simple fact that the armor of the day was much superior to most offensive weaponry. A more personal reason is the fact that the surest way for a mercenary to lose his source of livelihood was for the condottieri to obliterate his enemies. As a result, mercenaries rarely sought setpiece battles, choosing instead to fight relatively minor and extended campaigns. Engagements between mounted warriors often resembled jousts and those between infantry often turned into shoving matches.
In the past, nonlethal warfare did not rely on the use of nonlethal weapons; rather, it was the fortuitous result of the superiority of body armor over offensive weaponry or the mutual lackadaisical approach of opposing soldiers and leaders. Today, nonlethal weapons might offer the ability to wage nonlethal warfare without relying on such fortuitous circumstances. The use of nonlethal weapons would serve as a means of keeping the level of conflict low and of dissuading belligerents from resorting to more forceful weapons. Also, the prospect of resolving conflict with low levels of lethality is especially exciting to a country that has a warfighting doctrine of minimizing friendly as well as enemy casualties. Sun Tzu espoused a similar doctrine when he said:
o Generally in war the best policy is to take a state intact; to ruin it is inferior to this.
o To capture the enemy's army is better than to destroy it; to take intact a battalion, a company or a fiveman squad is better than to destroy them.
o For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.2
Nonlethal weapons are defined as "weapons that are designed to disable personnel, weapons, supplies, or equipment in such a way that death or severe permanent disability to personnel are unlikely." However, some proposed "nonlethal" weapons are not authorized under the international law governing weapons. Additionally, some nonlethal weapons are not truly nonlethal in all employment scenarios. Some government organizations such as the National Institute of Justice prefer the term less than lethal3 to emphasize the point that "enough marshmallows will kill you if properly placed."4 Others have coined the phrase "nonlethal weapons of mass destruction" to emphasize the fact that nonlethal weapons span the spectrum of warfare from lowintensity conflict through theater conventional warfare and all the way to strategic global war. Biological or chemical agents that destroy crops without directly affecting people would still be considered lethal if starvation is the likely result. A microwave weapon that disables a truck that subsequently drives off a cliff, killing the driver, would be nonlethal. The same weapon used against a helicopter in flight would have to be considered lethal.
Some nonlethal technologies may offer new options to our armed forces; others may prove to be more useful to our enemies because of our advanced society's many vulnerabilities. For example, a terrorist group with rudimentary knowledge of our information switches could shut down our stock market with several wellplaced electromagnetic pulse generators. Regardless of a weapon's potential worth or our relative vulnerability, however, there is some value in pursuing these technologies if only to develop appropriate countermeasures and policies. In this article, we will examine the various nonlethal weapons in three contexts-potential technologies, legalities, and potential policies.
Proposed Nonlethal Weapons and Their Legality
In 1868, the Russian government issued an invitation to the International Military Commission "to examine the expediency of forbidding the use of certain projectiles in time of war between civilized nations." At issue was the use of certain light explosives or inflammable projectiles. When used against human beings, the new projectile was no more effective than an ordinary rifle bullet; however, it caused greater wounds and thus greatly aggravated the sufferings of the victim. The resulting document, the Declaration of St. Petersburg, prohibited the use of explosive projectiles under 400 grams of weight. It was the first international treaty imposing restrictions on the conduct of war.
The Declaration of St. Petersburg is a significant document because it develops a line of reasoning governing the legality of weapons. This reasoning is found in the preamble to the declaration:
"Considering the progress of civilization should have the effect of alleviating as much as possible the calamities of war. The only legitimate object which states should endeavor to accomplish during war is to weaken the military forces of the enemy. It is sufficient to disable the greatest possible number of men, and this object would be exceeded by the employment of arms which uselessly aggravate the sufferings of disabled men or render their death inevitable. The use of such weapons would therefore, be contrary to the laws of humanity."
Although it may appear to be an incongruous concept, the nations of the world have recognized the need to impose restrictions on the waging of war. War will necessarily result in death and injury to humans and the destruction of property; however, in the eyes of the international community, it need not be an unlimited exercise in cruelty and ruthlessness.5 The necessities of war must be conciliated with the laws of humanity. The resulting restrictions are regarded as the international law of armed conflict (LOAC), or the law of war.
These concepts did not originate in Russia. They can be found throughout man's history. The ancient Hindu laws of Manu prohibited the use of barbed arrows because they exacerbated the injury upon their removal. The Romans considered the use of poisoned weapons to be unlawful. During the Middle Ages, the Pope condemned the crossbow, noting the appalling injuries it caused.
While most cultures saw a need to restrain the horrors of war, it was not until the nineteenth century that these concepts were codified. The Declaration of St. Petersburg was followed by the Hague conventions, which codified the "laws and customs of war on land."6 The Geneva conventions of 1929 and 1949 focused on ameliorating the conditions of civilians, prisoners of war, and the sick and wounded.7 The latest amendments to the law of armed conflict are contained in the 1977 Protocol.8 Additionally, a number of treaties address the legitimacy of specific weapons.9
The legality of a weapon and the legality of the specific use of a weapon are determined by international law. The sources of international law are international conventions, international customs, general principles of law, as well as the writings of publicists.10 International law is part of the domestic law of the United States. Treaties are regarded as the supreme law of the land in the Constitution.11 Those practices of states that are regarded as custom are binding on all nationstates. A large part of the law of armed conflict is recognized as custom and must be observed by all nations.12
To examine the legality of nonlethal weapons, it is necessary to understand the wide array of legal principles and restrictions governing their use.
[I]n considering the use of any weapon, new or old, two questions must be answered. First, can this weapon legally be use? Second, if the first question is answered in the affirmative, is the proposed use of this weapon legal?13
We will review the general principles governing the law of armed conflict, restraints imposed by custom and treaty, and specific bans on weapons in order to review the legality of some proposed nonlethal weapons.
General Principles of the Law of Armed Conflict
International law does not enumerate those acts that may be committed in the name of military necessity. Guidance is found in United States v. List, when the international military tribunal at Nuremberg determined that ...
"Military necessity permits a belligerent, subject to the laws of war, to apply any amount and kind of force to compel the complete submission of the enemy with the least possible expenditure of time, life, and money. . . . There must be some reasonable connection between the destruction of property and the overcoming of the enemy."14
The rules of international law must be followed even if it results in the loss of an advantage. Kriegsraison, the German doctrine of military necessity, was the belief that the ends justified the means. A matter of urgent necessity could override the LOAC. This principle was rejected in United States v. Krupp, when the Nuremberg tribunal held that ...
"to claim that the law of war can be wantonly and at the sole discretion of any one belligerent be disregarded when he considered his own situation to be critical means nothing more than to abrogate the laws and customs of war entirely."15
The principle of humanity calls for the mitigation of human suffering.16 As an example, an enemy soldier should not be subjected to unnecessary suffering. A wound should be inflicted to heal as painlessly as possible.17 Humanity's position in the law of armed conflict was also preserved by the "Martens' Clause," which specified that ...
"the inhabitants and the belligerents remain under the protections and the principles of the laws of nations as they result from the usage's established among civilized persons, from the laws of humanity, and from the dictates of the public conscience."18
The Rule of Proportionality
The concept of proportionality calls for a reasonable relationship between the amount of destruction caused and the military significance of the attack.19 The principles of humanity and military necessity are applied together. Proportionality requires that the loss of life and the damage not be disproportionate to the expected military advantage. "Proportionality represents a movable fulcrum on which necessity humanity scale may be balanced."20 The law recognizes that a military activity will result in some loss of life and property, but the action is illegal if the loss exceeds the military advantage.
Principles Governing Weapons
International law establishes certain principles governing the prohibition of weapons. Two such principles are unnecessary suffering and indiscriminate effects caused by certain weapons.
Article 23(e) of the 1907 Hague Convention prohibits the use of "arms, projectiles or materials calculated to cause unnecessary suffering."21 This concept has been the subject of much concern as there is no precise definition of unnecessary suffering. As stated in Air Force Pamphlet (AFP) 11031, International Law: The Conduct of Armed Conflict, all weapons cause suffering.22 The St. Petersburg Declaration speaks in terms of arms that uselessly aggravate "the sufferings of disabled men or render their death inevitable."
A primary concern of the law of armed conflict is the protection of noncombatants. A belligerent may not attack a noncombatant and must cancel an attack on a legitimate military target if the injury to the noncombatant population would be disproportionate. Belligerents cannot employ a "blind" weapon, one that cannot discriminate between noncombatants and combatants.
Restraints Imposed by Custom or Treaty
A weapon that complies with the general principles of the law may not be used in a manner that is restricted by custom or treaty. The Hague conventions underline that there are restrictions on the conduct of war in Article 22, which provides that "the right of belligerents to adopt means of injuring the enemy is not unlimited."
Weapons may be used only against military objectives. An object is considered to be a military object if its use, nature, location, or purpose make effective contribution to the military action.23 Some objects are considered dual use objects. They meet the needs of the civilian population but also effectively contribute to the enemys military action. These objects may be attacked if there is a military advantage to be gained by their attack. During Desert Storm, the coalition forces bombed bridges across the Euphrates River, not only to restrict the movement of enemy forces but to sever the communications systems. The bridges contained fiberoptic links that provided Saddam Hussein with a communications system to his forces.24 The attack produced a military advantage for the coalition forces.
The attack may only be against lawful combatants. The LOAC prohibits attack against noncombatants or civilian property. Again, attacks against military targets may result in injury to protected persons and property. It is the attackers' responsibility to minimize collateral damage against protected persons and property. Places such as buildings dedicated to religion, art, science, charitable purposes, historic monuments, and hospitals are protected from attack.25 The Hague Convention also prohibits the use of poison,26 treachery, and perfidy.27 Emblems of protection such as the Red Cross must be respected.28 There are rules governing the use of uniforms and certain signals.29 Assassination is prohibited.30
Man is constantly using technology to devise new weapons that international law must address. These weapons range from the very deadly to the nonlethal.
Biological warfare is defined as "the technique of destruction by disease."31 Biological agents are living organisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa, and rickettsiae) or the toxins derived from such organisms. These organisms or toxins can be targeted against animals, plants, or material.
The idea of using bacteria and toxins to harm an enemy is not a new one. During the fourteenth century, the Tatars catapulted bodies of plague victims into a Crusader fortress to spread contagion. The Crusaders, weakened by disease, lost their stronghold.32 Historically, biological weapons have been regarded as so horrible that they should be prohibited. The objections are based on a number of grounds.
Bacteriological agents owe their effects to the multiplication of their organisms within the victim. Their multiplication after dissemination is hard to control. They are unpredictable in scale and duration.33 They increase the possibility of epidemics that would indiscriminately strike noncombatants. They may also indiscriminately attack the disseminator's own troops. The medical profession, entitled to protection, would suffer at the same rate as the combatants, decreasing chances of survival for the whole population.34 Bacteriological warfare may be impossible to defend against. This type of warfare does not destroy property but strikes against personnel, animals, and crops. Suffering may be prolonged due to the destruction of crops.35 An important consideration was that toxins are technically poisons, and poisons have historically been prohibited.
Although it is conceivable that under limited circumstances biological weapons could be employed in accordance with the generally accepted principles of the LOAC, they have been banned by international treaties. In 1925, the Geneva Protocol prohibited the use of bacteriological methods of warfare. In 1975 the United States ratified the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and Their Destruction. Under the terms of the convention, the parties undertake not to develop, produce, stockpile, or acquire biological agents or toxins "of types and in quantities that have no justification for prophylactic protection and other peaceful purposes."
The impact of these two conventions is the clear prohibition of the use and development of biological weapons. Attempts to employ biological warfare, even in a nonlethal capacity, would be prohibited under international law. The drafters of the Biological Convention focused on the development of biological weapons for hostile purposes.
One of the methods of nonlethal warfare under consideration is the use of recombinant DNA technology to attack an ethnic population. This would be a prohibited hostile use of biological agents. In addition, such an action could be a violation of the Convention of the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.36 The use of biological agents even to cause mild sickness or destroy a food crop would be unlawful. The criteria for the use of the biological agent is whether or not it is a hostile use, not whether or not the use will result in death.
Some bacteriological agents have genuine medical uses, and stockpiling for these purposes is not objectionable. Accordingly, it would follow that the use of bioremedians, biological agents that break down material, to clean up oil spills would be legal under these treaties, but the use of these same agents to destroy an enemy's fuel supply would be considered hostile intent and therefore illegal.37
Although the original impetus for the prohibition against biological warfare was the damage or injury to man, the conventions have been written to prohibit any hostile use of biological agents, even those which are nonlethal.
The end of the nineteenth century saw the development of chemical weapons on a significant scale.38 Chemical weapons were frequently used during World War I in the form of toxic chemicals such as chlorine, phosgene, and mustard gases. Phosgene has a slow effect on the victim. "The person will have increasing difficulty in breathing as the lung tissue is slowly destroyed and fills up with bodily fluids. Death, which is slow in coming, is by asphyxiation."39 Since death was slow in coming, the victims damaged lungs would suffer bacterial infection that would be the actual cause of death.40 Sulfur mustard gas also destroys tissue. If the gas contacts skin, the skin is destroyed. If the gas is inhaled, the lung lining is destroyed.41
The military and the general population were horrified by these weapons, which had the same treacherous characteristics of poison that had been prohibited by custom and international treaties. The weapon could not be seen, and defenses were limited. Its effectiveness was subject to the whims of the wind. Gas was released to cover an area, and would indiscriminately strike all in the area, be they combatants or noncombatants. And last, the weapon caused unnecessary suffering.
The 1925 Gas Protocol was drafted in response to the horrors seen during World War I. A number of nations reserved the right to retaliate against the use of chemical weapons with chemical weapons. The United States had several objections to the Gas Protocol. It believed chemical weapons did not include chemical riot control agents. The United States has historically argued the dichotomy of allowing riot control gases by a nations police force against its own citizens while prohibiting their use against enemy combatants in battle.42 Again, it argued that the use of herbicides and defoliants may be more humane in some cases than the use of conventional weapons.43 Fifty years later, in 1975, the Senate abandoned these arguments and unanimously ratified the treaty. In 1975, President Gerald R. Ford issued an executive order renouncing first use of riot control gases and herbicides except in limited noncombatant situations.44
The Gas Protocol has been subject to a number of criticisms.45 Following the United States's lead, the United Nations took efforts to develop comprehensive arms control of chemical weapons. The Draft Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction46 prohibited the use, development, production, acquiring, or stockpiling of chemical weapons. It also prohibited the use of riot controls as a method of warfare.
The Convention defines chemical weapons to include "Toxic chemicals and their precursors, except when intended for purposes not prohibited under this convention" (emphasis added). Toxic chemical is defined to mean "any chemical which through its chemical action on life processes can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm to humans or animals." Prohibited toxic chemicals have been listed in schedules contained in the "Annex of Chemicals":
"Riot Control Agent" means any chemical not listed in a Schedule, which can produce rapidly in human sensory irritation or disabling physical effects which disappear within a short time following termination of exposure."
Article II, Section 9, goes on to define "Purposes Not Prohibited Under this Convention" to mean:
c) Military purposes not connected with the use of chemical weapons and not dependent on the use of toxic properties of chemicals as a method of warfare
d) Law enforcement including domestic riot control purposes.
Following are some of the chemical antipersonnel nonlethal weapons under consideration.
Tear/Riot Gases. The domestic law enforcement community possesses and uses riot gases. However, in a warfare situation, the use of tear gas is currently strictly limited by an executive order. When the chemical convention is entered into force, the use of tear gas and other riot controls will be completely forbidden.
Calmative Agents. These agents, sometimes called sleep agents, can be made more effective by combining them with dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), a chemical that promotes transmission of the calmative through the skin and into the bloodstream. Calmative agents were allegedly used by the Soviets in Afghanistan. The reports indicated that the mujahideen would lie down and sleep until they awoke later in Soviet custody. The reports are discounted because such a chemical has not proven effective.47 If the chemical that comprises the calmative agent is not listed on the prohibited chemical schedule, then a further determination of whether the agent constitutes a prohibited riotcontrol agent must be made. Under the definition of "riot control agent," calmative agents would be prohibited because they cause disabling physical effects.
Sticky Foam. These polymer agents will hopelessly stick a person to anything. It can be argued that these weapons amount to prohibited riot control agents under the convention since they are "chemicals... which can produce rapidly disabling physical effects."
Markers. These chemical agents come in numerous forms and are currently used in law enforcement. A covert variety can surreptitiously expose a criminal to an invisible dye that shows up under special lighting. An overt dye that is impossible to wash off can be sprayed on a fleeing felon.
Nonlethal chemical agents that attack material are promising and diverse. If the chemical that comprises the weapon is limited on the schedule of prohibited chemicals, it may be possible to claim that the weapon is exempt. These chemicals are "not dependent on the use of the toxic properties of chemicals as a method of warfare." "Toxic Properties" means using chemical action on life processes that cause death, temporary incapacitation, or permanent harm to humans or animals. This category of weapons would include the following agents.
Combustion Alteration Technology (CAT). CAT agents change the viscosity or combustion characteristics of fuel to degrade engine performance. Nearinstantaneous engine failure is possible if the agent is applied in appropriate quantities.
Smart Metals. These special metals, formed with chemical additives or blended in a particular form, could be introduced to control certain activities while allowing legitimate ones. For example, a notional metal designed to perform satisfactorily in a legitimate chemical plant might be designed to fail or give off telltale signs to inspectors if the plant is used for more insidious purposes.
Super Caustics. These super acids can be used against weapons, tires, roads, roofs, optical systems, or even shoes. They could also be used to deny human contact and can be stored in a harmless binary form.48
Metal Embrittlement. These agents severely weaken metals by chemically changing their molecular structure. They are clear, leave imperceptible residue, can attack almost any metal, and can be applied with a felt tip pen.49
Antitraction Technology. These super lubricants severely reduce traction. They are specially blended to attack specific targets such as roads, runways, rails, and the like.50
Polymer Agents. These agents are similar to sticky foams but are designed to target material instead of personnel. They can foul engines or ventilation systems and can also deny the use of weapons and facilities.51
Nonlethal electromagnetic weapons span the spectrum from simple to exotic. Many can be employed (or can have collateral effects) against both personnel and equipment. Blinding and shocking effects are the most common nonlethal results of the use of this class of weapons. We will now look at potential nonlethal applications of certain technologies for which there are presently no specific prohibitions but which could certainly have LOAC implications.
Electrified Baton, Stun Gun, Taser. These weapons deliver immobilizing, lowenergy pulsed shocks either at close range (baton and stun gun) or at long range (taser). They are used by police in criminal enforcement. The taser has electric currents of high voltage and low amperage that cause the muscles of the body to contract forcefully.52 The individual experiences spasms.53 The contractions may fracture bones. If the individual collapses, he may suffer further injury.54 If an individual is repeatedly shocked, he may be rendered unconscious. The individual may suffer electrical burns that may be difficult to treat.55
Highintensity Light. These omnidirectional bombs or flares can flashblind personnel even in existing intense lighting situations. They can also degrade sensors and night vision devices.
Lasers. Lowenergy lasers can be directed or aimed at specific targets to blind personnel or sensors either temporarily or permanently. They can also be used to make a gun or other weapon too hot to hold. The most advanced blinding lasers oscillate between numerous colors to make goggles and other countermeasures ineffective.
One factor in the assessment of the legality of a weapon is discrimination. A weapon that injures the civilian population or civilian property along with military personnel and objects, without distinction, is considered indiscriminate and thus illegal. Electromagnetic weapons, and most specifically the laser, can "almost always be directed very precisely against specific targets."56
A second factor of assessment is "unnecessary suffering." Several electromagnetic weapons, such as the highintensity light and laser, may produce temporary or permanent blindness. These weapons have been the subject of much discussion. Sweden has been actively condemning the use of lasers as antipersonnel weapons on the grounds that they cause unnecessary suffering.
Several sophisticated types of military equipment, such as sensors and optics, are rendered useless when subjected to laser weapons. These pieces of military equipment are legitimate targets. Their destruction, however, may result in injury to personnel. Such injury would be incidental to the primary target of the weapon.57
The controversy surrounding lasers focuses on the legitimacy of deliberately blinding human beings. Exposing a pilot's eyes to a laser may result in the destruction of the entire plane.58 Intentionally blinding an attacking infantry unit would render them unable to fight. Some scholars, in particular experts from Switzerland and Sweden, argue that intentionally using a laser to permanently blind a combatant is a disproportionate injury to the gained military advantage.59 The essence of their argument is that the Declaration of St. Petersburg authorized the incapacitation of an opponent only for the duration of the conflict. "Although it is permitted to kill combatants under the law of war, and thus to put them permanently out of action, it is not permitted to use methods or means of warfare exclusively designed to injure soldiers with injuries lasting not only the duration of the conflict but for the rest of their lives."60 It is their position that intentional irreversible permanent blindness by a laser constitutes "unnecessary suffering."
The United States rejects this position. In a memorandum of law, it noted that there was no legal obligation to limit wounding so that the opponent would be temporarily disabled for the period of the hostilities and no longer.61 Additionally, it noted, "Blinding is no stranger to the battle field." The use of a number of conventional weapons could result in blindness.62 However, these conventional weapons are more likely to cause death. It is the United States' position that lasers do not cause unnecessary suffering but are more humane because the victim is likely to suffer less injury than that caused by conventional weapons.63
The injuries suffered as a result of electromagnetic weapons are typically less severe than those injuries resulting from conventional weapons. Although it is possible that a belligerent may be permanently injured or killed as a result of the use of these weapons, there is no evidence that the suffering experienced is greater then that experienced from conventional weapons.
Nonlethal acoustical weapons also range from the mundane to the extraordinary as described below.
High-intensity Sound. High-intensity sound sets the ear drum in motion. These vibrations cause the inner ear to initiate nerve impulses that the brain registers as sound.64 The inner ear regulates the spatial orientation of the body. If the ear is subjected to high-intensity sound, the individual may experience imbalance.65 Low-frequency, high-intensity sound may cause other organs to resonate, causing a number of physiological results, including death.66
The British use high-intensity sound as a means of riot control in Northern Ireland. The Curdler is a device that emits a high "shrieking noise at irregular intervals."67 The sound is emitted at levels lower than the pain threshold.
The assessment of high-intensity sound as a legal weapon must be reviewed in terms of "unnecessary suffering." If the acoustical weapon emits sounds below the pain threshold, then unnecessary suffering is not an issue. If the sound does inflict pain, the suffering must be balanced against military necessity. It may be lawful to use high-intensity sound against an attacking force, although some of the attackers may experience dis-orientation, pain, or even death. As noted earlier when discussing the legality of blinding soldiers, it is permissible to injure a combatant even with a wound that may incapacitate the soldier for a period exceeding the term of the hostilities. Combatants have been rendered deaf from conventional warfare, or have even been disoriented from the confusion of the battle. The use of high-intensity sound as a weapon to disorient, or to cause pain or death, does not constitute unnecessary suffering.
However, acoustical weapons run the risk of being an indiscriminate weapon. The release of highintensity sound would impose the same degree of damage on the noncombatant as the combatant. It may be used only in circumstances in which the damage to noncombatants is merely incidental in proportion to the necessity of the military objective.
Infrasound. This is a powerful ultralow frequency (ULF) sonic weapon that can penetrate buildings and vehicles and can be directional and tunable. As a weapon infrasound, lowfrequency sound entails the same concerns as highintensity sound. After being exposed to highintensity infrasound, a subject suffers from disorientation and reduced ability to perform simple sensorymotor tasks.68 At elevated levels, experimental animals cease breathing temporarily.69 The principles and findings regarding highintensity sound would apply to infrasound. The suffering would be no greater than that experienced by conventional weapons. The suffering must be proportionate to the military objectives. The sound must be applied so that damage to noncombatants is incidental in light of the military objective.
Unfortunately, large banks of speakers are required to provide directionality, and the power demands are enormous.70 Area denial is a very plausible mission for such a device as the level of pain or damage increases predictably as range decreases.
Sonic Bullets. These are packets of sonic energy that are propelled toward the target. The Russians apparently have a portable device that can propel a 10-Hertz (Hz) sonic packet the size of a baseball hundreds of yards. When employed against humans, the energy can be selected to result in nonlethal or lethal damage.71 The sonic bullet uses direct sonic energy. If the energy can be controlled so that it is used only against lawful combatants, the concerns surrounding acoustical weapons may be reduced or eliminated.
Deference Tones. These are sophisticated arrays that can project a voice or other sound to a particular location. The resulting sound can only be heard at that particular location.72 Deference tones, a means of projecting sound, would not directly cause injury upon the enemy. Its use must be in accordance with the constraints of the law of armed conflict. For example, if the tone is generating a sound such as an SOS signal, the enemy has an obligation to respond to that sound. If the SOS sound is used to lure the enemy to a place where they will be ambushed, such a use of the tone would be perfidious and therefore illegal.
Recently, a new class of nonlethal weapons has drawn considerable interest in defense circles as well as in international law. Two types of such weapons are discussed below.
Voice Synthesis. This is the ability to clone a person's voice and broadcast a synthesized message to a selected audience. The propaganda value of this technique in our highly mediadependent world would be enormous. We currently have the ability to control the broadcasts of foreign radio and television stations by using orbiting platforms packed with electronic gear.
In considering whether it is legal to clone a persons voice in order to gain a military advantage, it is important to determine whose voice is being cloned. In most cases, it would be realistic to expect that the voice cloned would be that of a political leader or a military officer. The cloned voice might give orders to the enemy combatant that might prove detrimental to the combatant. The combatant would most likely be under an obligation to follow these orders. That obligation, however, is owed to his own chain of command and is not under the law of armed conflict. Treacherous acts, those which abuse an obligation to be truthful under the law of armed conflict, are illegal. But if there is no obligation to be truthful under the law of armed conflict, then the misinformation amounts to a lawful ruse. Morris Greenspan, a prominent writer in the field of international law, notes that examples of legitimate ruses are "making use of the enemy's signals, bugle and trumpet calls, watchwords, and words of command."73 Giving orders by voice is analogous to giving orders by bugle calls or signals. Cloning a voice would not violate the law of armed conflict.
Computer Viruses. The ability to severely disrupt computer operations with viruses has already been demonstrated by amateur American hackers. A more sophisticated and professional effort might be that of being able to produce viruses that can be injected into enemy hardware at long range.
When planning to disrupt computer operations, it is necessary to distinguish whether the computers are military objectives. If they are civilian property or their loss would impact only the civilian population, then they are not legitimate targets. However, if the computers serve a dual use (for both the civilian population and the military population), they may be considered valid targets. The next step in the analysis calls for applying the rule of proportionality to determine if the military advantage outweighs the impact upon the civilian population.
In this section we will discuss several possible scenarios for the employment of nonlethal weapons. These include special operations missions such as counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, peacekeeping, and peacemaking, as well as more conventional forms of warfare. We will also examine the potential for nonlethal weapons to lower or raise the threshold of war and the issue of escalation.
Special operations forces typically operate in a highly volatile political environment. They must often minimize the use of force if they intend to complete the mission without alienating international as well as domestic political players. Such alienation would make future missions much more difficult.
Hostage Barricade Situation. One counterterrorism scenario that must be resolved with a maximum degree of control is the hostage barricade situation. The ideal nonlethal weapon for a hostage barricade situation would be one that instantaneously and selectively disables the hostage takers. Unfortunately, any feasible weapon would probably disable the hostages as well. Therefore, any disabling effect should be controllable so that the hostages could cooperate in their rescue. At the very least, if the weapon is indiscriminate, the effect must not permanently injure the hostages. The use of lasers to temporarily blind personnel could cause permanent blind spots depending on range and weapon intensity. In the final analysis, however, any nonlethal weapon must be judged against the normally lethal alternatives. A typical hostage rescue operation involves a violent plan that results in the death of the hostage takers and the rescue of the hostages. The weapons employed are concussion grenades, flashbang devices, and conventional small arms. The tactics involve the so-called "double tap" - one bullet to the chest and one to the head. Even a well-executed mission can result in the deaths of one or more hostages. The primary potential usefulness of nonlethal weapons is the decreased chance of lethality for the hostages and the possibility of increased safety for the rescuers.
The worst-case hostage situation would involve an in extremis assault. This would occur if the terrorists start executing hostages. In most situations, the result would be an immediate and violent raid by special operations forces to resolve the situation. The level of violence and lethality acceptable in this circumstance would increase drastically. Ironically, this might also be the situation most conducive to the use of nonlethal technologies. If hostages are already dying, then the advantages of instantaneously incapacitating everyone are obvious. Some unwanted permanent injuries to hostages who would otherwise have surely died are probably acceptable. In contrast, injuries to hostages that occur when rescuers preempt the in extremis situation are inevitably attributed to the rescuers and may not be acceptable.
Each hostage situation is so unique that one universal course of action cannot be recommended. Variables include the condition of the hostages, potential access by rescuers, the capabilities and proven intentions of the terrorists, the use of deadman triggers, and other factors. The solution seems to be the development and testing of a repertoire of possible nonlethal technologies that gives the mission planner more options. Cooperation with domestic law enforcement in the development of nonlethal weapons could yield synergistic benefits for the resolution of hostage situations.
Counterinsurgencies. The key to winning a counterinsurgency is winning the hearts and minds of the affected population. In this scenario, any weapon that reduces collateral damage to innocent people or property is advantageous. Insurgents who are interspersed with innocent civilians are especially hard to target. However, it is not even necessary or even desirable to kill the insurgent in order to defeat him. Certain nonlethal weapons might offer solutions to these tactically difficult situations. In Vietnam, for example, the only options available to a patrol under fire from a "friendly" village were (1) return fire and risk generating friendly casualties, or (2) withdraw. Both options have the potential of further alienating a largely friendly population. The ability to incapacitate the insurgents would enable troops to sort out the good from the bad without killing anyone. A secondary advantage of capturing an insurgent rather than killing him is the intelligence that can be garnered from the prisoner, a critical element in defeating an insurgency.
Some nonlethal technologies that offer promise in counterinsurgencies include chemical defoliants and tear gasses, calmative agents, blinding weapons, and acoustical weapons. Of course, as discussed earlier, the weapon chosen must be a legal one. Additionally, such practical issues as portability, training, and effectiveness must also be addressed before relying on such weapons in the hands of troops facing a mortal enemy. Insurgents might be emboldened and able to attract more (though less dedicated) followers if they know that death is a very unlikely prospect. The insurgency could deteriorate into a game in which the insurgents are incapacitated and captured while counterinsurgents are killed.
Peacekeeping and Peacemaking. Peacekeeping and peacemaking are rapidly expanding roles for special operations as well as conventional forces. The use of minimal lethal force may be desirable in both situations. Nonlethal technologies may offer some solutions. In Somalia, soldiers confronted with a hostile crowd often had no options other than to fire upon the crowd. Effective nonlethal crowd control techniques might have been used.
One potential role for nonlethal weapons in a peacemaking scenario would be the ability to defeat the "iron sight." For example, in spite of all our technological successes in countering infrared and electronic threats, we have not developed a technique to defeat a lone sniper with a rifle, or a radar precision guided (RPG) or other optically guided weapon. Small numbers of snipers can wreak havoc on an entire city as they did in Sarajevo. They can also bring down helicopters as they did in Mogadishu, and they can also destroy the morale of a normally effective combat force. Lasers might offer an effective means of point defense and could even be used to counter snipers. For example, a relatively simple laser device strapped on a helicopter could be scanned to blind anyone looking in the direction of the aircraft. Likewise, a laser scanned around a compound or guard shack could blind anyone attempting to target the site. Indeed, by using the unique optical reflection signature from the back of the eye, a low power laser could be used to locate anyone persistently looking at a specific target.74 A human operator (or an automated system) could then decide whether to target the detected signature with a higherpowered laser weapon or even a lethal weapon. Disadvantages of this sophisticated antisniper device include possible indiscriminate targeting, adjustment of power levels to account for environmental conditions, and the possibility that the laser itself may provide a more sophisticated enemy with an emission source that could be targeted.
The role of peacekeeping (as opposed to peacemaking) troops does not generally involve combat. Many UN observers are required to be unarmed. Perhaps nonlethal weapons could be used to aid in separating warring factions or as antisniper devices to protect the peacekeepers.
Nonlethal weapons can also be used in conventional conflicts. Electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapons can be used to disable grounded aircraft or vehicles rendering them useless on a temporary or even permanent basis. These weapons can also be used to down airborne aircraft although this would hardly be considered nonlethal. One key to effective warfighting doctrine is to attack an enemy's critical nodes of command and communications as well as other infrastructures. While smart weapons can attack specific complexes and bunkers, nonlethal weapons offer the opportunity to disable entire nodes on a much grander scale. For example, the remote injection of a computer virus into an enemy's command and control system could be devastating. Likewise, certain biological agents that are designed to attack silicon or other computer components could effectively destroy computerized warfighting equipment. Super caustics can be sprayed on roads to deteriorate tank tracks and truck tires. Antitraction compounds can render mountain roads impassable, and embrittlement compounds could be sprayed on virtually any mechanical device -- rendering them ineffective over a period of time. Combustion alteration technology agents could be used to shut down an entire harbor or airfield. Of course, practical matters such as method of delivery, persistence, concentration, and efficiency of these agents versus more lethal weapons must be considered.
One advantage for using nonlethal technologies in combat is the possibility of reducing fratricide. Nonlethal weaponry that disables a tank rather than killing it enables friendly forces the option of "shooting first and asking questions later." Additionally, nonlethal weapons such as acoustical and laser devices might offer good point defense options for high security areas, further reducing the chances of fratricide.
Threshold of War
Raising the threshold of war is a consistent overarching goal of most arms control negotiations. In light of the fact that many hostile countries possess weapons of mass destruction, quick escalation from rhetoric to shooting could prove disastrous. Indeed, conventional weapons in the hands of fairly skilled armed forces often result in significant casualties. Therefore, a primary concern in the employment of nonlethal weapons is the possibility that they might lower the threshold of war. What one country might consider a "normal" economic sanction, another country might consider an act of war. Even if such a sanction was not considered an act of war, it could, nonetheless, provide a path for escalation. National sensitivities and vulnerabilities are too variable to accurately predict a response to the employment of a particular nonlethal weapon. For example, if a third world country brought down our stock exchange and electronic funds transfer system with a computer virus, we may consider this an act of war. The world community, however, would probably condemn us if we retaliated with lethal weapons-perhaps our only option against a less-developed society.
The most tempting use of some nonlethal weapons would be in the area of clandestine operations. With computer viruses, for example, an attacking country would almost certainly enjoy plausible (if not total) deniability. In some cases, the targeted country might never realize they were attacked at all. For example, a liquid metal embrittlement agent introduced clandestinely in an industrial plant could cause a catastrophic failure that might be attributed to normal wear and fatigue. Clandestine operations of this type might muddy the international waters to the point that nobody knows when or by whom they are being attacked.
Nonlethal weapons offer new possibilities in warfare, especially in the arena of special operations. However, it is not an unlimited exercise. Each newly developed weapon must be designed and used in compliance with international law. We must then consider the practicalities of the weapon's use. Nonlethal weapons show promise, but they are not bringing us to a new golden age of warfare. Carl von Clausewitz lambasted the idea of nonlethal warfare outright when he remarked,
"Let us not hear of Generals who conquer without bloodshed. If a bloody slaughter is a horrible sight, then that is a ground for paying more respect to War, but not for making the sword we wear blunter and blunter by degrees from feelings of humanity, until some one steps in with one that is sharp and lops off the arm from our body."75
Likewise, Robert E. Lee remarked during the Battle of Fredericksburg, "It is well war is so terrible, or we should grow too fond of it."76 The condottieri largely avoided terrible battles and thus apparently grew fond enough of war to elevate it to a game. Modern nations might also be tempted to engage in a game of nonlethal warfare only to see it escalate to something much more terrible.
1. Joseph Jay Deiss, Captains of Fortune: Profiles of Six Italian Condottiere (New York: Crowell, 1967), 28. Contemporary scholars almost universally agree that Machiavelli's contempt for the mercenaries caused him to exaggerate the nonlethality of their encounters. Nevertheless, many engagements were indeed devoid of significant casualties. See also Geoffrey Trease, The Condotteri: Soldiers of Fortune (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1971), 18-22.
2 .Sun Tzu, The Art of War, trans. Samuel B. Griffith (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), 77.
3. "NIJ Initiative on LessThanLethal Weapons," National Institute of Justice Research in Brief, March 1993.
4. "NonLethal Weapons Give Peacekeepers Flexibility." Aviation Week & Space Technology, 7 December 1992, 50.
5. Frits Kalshoven, Constraints on the Waging of War (Norwell, Mass.: Kluwer Publications, 1991), 12.
6. The Convention with Respect to the Laws and Customs of War on Land, 29 July 1899 (hereinafter cited as Hague 1899), in Treaty Series (TS) 403 (Washington, D.C.: US Department of State), and the Regulations Annexed to Hague Convention No. IV Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, 18 October 1907 (hereinafter cited as Hague 1907).
7. Following are these conventions, which can be found as noted in Treaties and Other International Acts Series (TIAS) (Washington, D.C.: US Department of State, 1956): Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in the Armed Forces in the Field, 12 August 1949, TIAS 3362. Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick and Shipwrecked Members, 12 August 1949, TIAS 3363. Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, 12 August 1949, TIAS 3363. Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Civilian Persons in Time of War, 12 August 1949, TIAS 3365.
8. The 1977 Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions, 8 June 1977 (hereinafter Protocol I), in Dietrich Schindler, The Laws of Armed Conflict: A Collection of Conventions, Resolutions, and Other Documents (Rockville, Md.: Sijthoff & Noordhoff, 1981), The United States has not ratified Protocol I.
9. These include the following agreements: The 1925 Geneva Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use of Asphyxiating, Poisonous, or Other Gases and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, 17 June 1925 (hereinafter Gas Protocol), in United States Treaties and Other International Agreements (UST), vol. 26 (Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 1976), 571 (26 UST 571), TIAS 8061. Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction, 10 April 1972, 26 UST 583, TIAS 8062. Convention on the Prohibition of Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques, 10 December 1976 (hereinafter ENMOD), 31 UST 333, TIAS 9614. Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects, 10 October 1980, in Schindler, 179. Protocol on Non Detectable Fragments, 10 October 1980, in Schindler, 179. Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Mines, Booby Traps, and Other Devices, 10 October 1980, in Schindler, 179. Protocol on the Use of Incendiary Weapons, in Schindler, 179.
10. Gerhard von Glahn, Law among Nations: An Introduction to Public International Law (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 17-22.
11. Article VI, Section 2.
12. Von Glahn, 12-23.
13. Maj William J. Neinast, "United States Use of Biological Warfare," Military Law Review 24 (1964): 17.
14. United States v. List et al., in Trials of War Criminals before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals, vol. XI, The High Command Case; The Hostage Case (Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 1950), 1253.
15. United States v. Krupp, Ibid., vol. IX, The Krupp Case, 1433-48.
16. Jean Pictet, Humanitarian Law and the Protection of War Victims (Rockville, Md.: Sijthoff and Noordhoff, 1985), 28-29.
18. Hague 1907, Preamble.
19. Judith Gail Gardam, "Proportionality and Force in International Law," American Journal of International Law 87 (1993): 391; and Brown, "The Proportionality Principle in the Humanitarian Law of Warfare," Cornell International Law Journal 10 (1976): 134.
20. G. J. Adler, "Targets in War: Legal Considerations," University of Houston Law Review 8 (1970): 1, 17-18.
21. Hague 1907.
22. Air Force Pamphlet (AFP) 11031, International Law: The Conduct of Armed Conflict and Air Operations, November 1976, par. 63(b)(2).
23. Ibid., par. 53(b).
24. Conduct of the Persian Gulf War: Final Report to Congress, vol. 1 (Washington, D.C.: Department of Defense, April 1992), 9.
25. Hague 1907, art. 27. See also Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, 1954.
26. Hague 1907, art. 23 (a).
27. Ibid., art. 23 (b).
28. Ibid., art. 23 (f).
30. Assassination is considered a treacherous act. See Patricia Zengel, "Assassination and the Law of Armed Conflict," Military Law Review 134 (1991): 123.
31. W. F. Biddle, Weapons Technology and Arms Control (New York: Praeger, 1972), 281.
32. Hilaire McCoubrey and Nigel D. White, International Law and Armed Conflict (Brookfield, Vt.: Dartmouth Publishing Co., 1992), 245.
33. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, The Problem of Chemical and Biological Warfare: A Study of the Historical, Technical, Military, Legal, and Political Aspects of CBW, and Possible Disarmament Measures, vol. 4, CB Disarmament Negotiations (New York: Humanities Press, 1971-1975), 268. Hereinafter cited as CBW Negotiations.
34. Neinast, 9.
35. CBW Negotiations, 270.
36. Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, 9 December 1948, defines genocide to mean any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial, or religious group such as: a. killing members of the group; b. causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; c. deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; d. imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; or e. forcibly transferring children of the group to another group See United Nations Treaty Series (UNTS), vol. 78 (New York: Secretariat of the United Nations, 1951), 280.
37. Harald Mhuller and Richard Kokoski, The NonProliferation Treaty: Political and Technical Prospects and Dangers in 1990 (Stockholm: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, c. 1990).
38. CBW Negotiations, 270.
39. Hugh D. Crone, Banning Chemical Weapons: The Scientific Background (New York: Cambridge University Press), 18.
42.CBW Negotiations, 23; and W. Hays Parks, "Classification of Chemical Biological Warfare," University of Toledo Law Review 13 (1982): 1168.
43.Ibid., 285. The use of herbicides must be in accordance with the 1977 Environmental Modification Convention (ENMOD). The convention requires that parties not engage in modifications being widespread (an area of several hundred square kilometers), be long lasting (a period of months or approximately a season or more, or have severe effects (serious or significant disruption or harm to life, nature, or economy).
44. Executive Order 11,850, Renunciation of Certain Uses in War of Chemical Herbicides and Riot Control Agents, 8 April 1976.
45. The Gas Protocol lacked any verification or enforcement means. Chemical weapons have been used a number of times, including by the Italians against the Ethiopians, by the Japanese against the Chinese, and by the Soviets against the Afghans. Phillip Louis Reizenstein, "Chemical Biological Weapons: Recent Legal Developments," Brooklyn Journal of International Law 95 (1986): 105.
46. Draft Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, 156 UN Doc. CD/500, 8 April 1974.
48.Paul R. Evancoe, "NonLethal Technology Enhances Warriors Punch," National Defense, December 1993, 28.
52. Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Antipersonnel Weapons (London: Taylor and Francis, 1978), 203.
56.Bengt Anderberg and Myron L. Wolbarsht, Laser Weapons: The Dawn of a New Military Age (New York: Plenum Press, 1992), 207.
61. "Memorandum of Law: The Use of Lasers as Antipersonnel Weapons," The Army Lawyer, November 1988, 3.
64. Antipersonnel Weapons, 203.
67. Ibid., 204.
70. Evancoe, 28.
71. "NonLethal Weapons Offer New SO/LIC Capabilities," Tactical Technologies, 3 February 1993, 5; and "Russians Continue Work on Sophisticated Acoustic Weaponry, " Defense Electronics 26 (March 1995): 12.
73. Morris Greenspan, The Modern Law of Land Warfare (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1959), 317-22.
74. This phenomenon can be observed using visible light. Anyone who has spotlighted a deer or a cat in their headlights has witnessed this retroreflection in the form of glowing eyes.
75. Carl von Clausewitz, On War, ed. Anatol Rapoport (Baltimore, Md.: Penguin Books, 1968), 345.
76. Quoted in Douglas Southall Freeman, R. E. Lee: A Biography, In vol. 2 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1941), 462.
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the US Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.