Executive Summary

Title: Waging Peace: The Non-Lethal Application of Aerospace Power

Author: Major Gregory P. Cook, USAF

22 May 1995

Problem or Research Question:

In what ways can the non-lethal application of aerospace power further US national strategy?


1. Clausewitz's basic definition of war is that it is "an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will." He also says that "kind-hearted people might of course think there was some ingenious way to disarm or defeat an enemy without too much bloodshed, and might imagine this is the true goal of the art of war." Yet Sun Tzu argues that "those skilled in war subdue the enemy's army without battle." What is the relevance of these arguments as they relate to current US national strategy objectives?

2. Many aerospace capabilities are non-lethal in nature, and perform supporting roles in the prosecution of violent warfare. In Operations Other Than War, however, many of the supporting activities become front-line weapons in the waging of non-violent military operations. History point to examples where the non-lethal use of airpower contributed to the resolution of a conflict without violent confrontation.

Conclusion: The non-lethal use of aerospace power can be decisive in the resolution of conflicts short of war.




Kind-hearted people might of course think there was some ingenious way to disarm or defeat an enemy without too much bloodshed, and might imagine this is the true goal of the art of war.

Carl von Clausewitz1

Those skilled in war subdue the enemy's army without battle.

Sun Tzu2

We are nearing the end of the 20th century, a time in which the destructiveness and violence of war has resulted in the deaths of millions of people and, at times, widespread devastation across significant portions of the globe. The cost in human tragedy and economic waste has been enormous, and few nations have escaped the impact of war. During this period, the role of technology and science in warfare has been particularly profound, and has pushed the theoretical limits of war to its absolute extreme -- the potential to destroy life on the planet in a nuclear maelstrom. Man stood on the brink of absolute, total war for nearly forty years and even now is only slowly stepping back from the edge.

The conduct of warfare throughout history has reflected not only the state of technology available at the time but the character of existing civilizations as well. Changes or transformations in either or both inevitably led to an a further evolution, or perhaps a revolution, in the nature and conduct of war. Military doctrine, as a result, came to represent a fusing of societal beliefs with the military technology of the period.

Some historians trace the evolution of war and military doctrine in this century to the rise of industrialism in the 19th century and the writings of the Prussian military theorist, Carl von Clausewitz. His classic military strategy work, On War, influenced the formulation of virtually every major military power's military doctrine during the early 1900s. 3 Its emphasis on war as a violent act with no logical limits gave rise to the idea of total war, and the technological and social developments of the industrial age made the waging of total war possible. The application of his theories could very well have contributed to the devastation and violence the world experienced during the all-out wars of the 20th century. B.H. Liddell Hart, one of this century's leading military minds, blames shallow interpretations of Clausewitz's writings as a major contributor to the destructiveness of World Wars I and II. 4 For Clausewitz also discussed in On War "another way" of success that did not entail the defeat of the enemy's forces: "operations that have direct political repercussions" that "can form a much shorter route to the goal than the destruction of the opposing armies." 5 Morever, "the political object -- the original motive for the war -- will thus determine both the military objective to be reached and the mount of effort it requires." 6

In recent years, another military theorist's views have been rediscovered, those of the ancient Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu. His work, The Art of War, contrasts greatly with Clausewitz's views of war, and stresses moderation, skill, and strategy over the application of violence to its logical extremes. As Samuel B. Griffith states in the preface to his translation of Sun Tzu's work:

He (Sun Tzu) considered the moral, intellectual, and circumstantial elements of war to be more important than the physical, and cautioned kings and commanders not to place reliance on sheer military power. He did not conceive war in terms of slaughter and destruction; to take all intact, or as nearly intact as possible, was the proper objective of strategy. 7

Sun Tzu believed in attacking the mind of the enemy, overcoming him by isolating and demoralizing him through the use of deception, subversion, and political activities. Only when these measures failed to sway the enemy did he advocate the use of armed force. Even then, he believed force should be applied judiciously in order to gain victory in the shortest time possible, at the lowest cost in lives and effort, and with as few casualties inflicted on the enemy as possible. 8 Sun Tzu clearly believed in the utility of limiting war, and his moderation stands in stark contrast to Clausewitz's ideals of escalating violence and conflict.

As we near the 21st century, technological and social developments continue to influence our views on the conduct and nature of war. Many argue that certain technological advancements are dramatically transforming advanced industrial societies like the United States, and that they portend a corresponding "Revolution in Military Affairs." The impact of emerging technologies, especially in information and aerospace capabilities, has the potential to fundamentally alter the character and conduct of military operations. US national defense policy embraces this concept, and emerging military doctrine is beginning to develop new strategies to apply these technologies to improve the effectiveness of military operations.

One concept under study and development is the idea of non-lethal warfare. In the post-Cold War era, the United States' Armed Forces find themselves involved in a growing number of "Operations Other Than War" and other missions where they must act in a highly constrained environment that may not require the destructive, violent application of military force. In military operations that fall below the threshold of war, such as peacekeeping, peace enforcement, humanitarian relief, and nation building, US forces may be called upon to employ non-lethal capabilities to overwhelm or defeat an adversary who may themselves be using lethal force. In many of these cases, international and public support is dependent upon our ability to minimize the destruction of life and property while achieving our objectives. Armed and organized primarily to inflict wholesale violence and destruction on our enemies a la Clausewitz, however, the US military establishment is groping for ways to maintain its lethal combat power yet still be able to conduct these military operations that are ostensibly non-lethal and non-destructive in nature. To put this in a different perspective, the U.S. military must be prepared to wage peace as well as war. As outlined in the 1995 National Military Strategy of the United States:

The challenge of the new strategic era is to selectively use the vast and unique capabilities of the Armed Forces to advance national interests in peacetime while maintaining readiness to fight and win when called upon. . . . The three components of this strategy are peacetime engagement, deterrence and conflict prevention, and fighting and winning our Nation's wars. 9

As never before, the U.S. military is being used as an instrument of national policy across the spectrum of peace and conflict, lending credence to Clausewitz's famous dictum that "war is not merely an act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse, carried on with other means." 10 If we agree with Clausewitz that war is an extension of politics and policy, then it also follows that anything the military does short of war also falls in the realm of politics. Therefore, by extension, everything the military does is political by nature. War, preparations for war, Operations Other Than War, humanitarian operations - all have political implications at home and abroad. Moreover, in this new era of increased military action, many mission objectives are political rather than military in nature, such as restoring democracy, preventing human rights abuses, or dealing with refugees.

Americans tend to believe that war and peace are distinctly different spheres - that there are clear lines between peace and war - and that politics and diplomacy are the tools of peace and the military an instrument of war. 11 Thus the concept of military operations other than war can be confusing to our citizens and soldiers alike. When American servicemen are engaged in military operations over the skies of Bosnia and Iraq, or are being killed in the streets of Mogadishu, the line between peace and war becomes extremely vague. If recent trends hold true, American forces will continue to operate in this gray area between relative peace and conventional war more often than not in the coming years. Does the US military have effective tools to deal with the wide range of possible scenarios that fall short of conventional armed conflict?

Much of current US force structure and military doctrine still focuses on the lethal application of military power through violent, destructive force. Yet the US arsenal contains a vast amount of non-lethal capabilities that can also be effectively applied across the spectrum of conflict to achieve our national policy goals. The purpose of this paper is to illuminate some of those capabilities, especially those in the realm of aerospace power, and to develop a conceptual and doctrinal framework for the non-lethal application of military power across the conflict spectrum.

To do this, we must first understand the underlying precepts of the ongoing Revolution in Military Affairs, and its implications for the future. Concepts of non-lethality must also be defined and clarified in order to increase and enhance our understanding of the potential and limitations of non-lethal warfare. We will then explore the historical effectiveness of non-lethal aerospace power in achieving national policy objectives.

Non-lethality is not a panacea, and there are many scenarios that will still require the application of lethal and destructive military force in order to achieve our objectives. Yet non-lethal and non-destructive capabilities can provide our policy makers and military leaders with an expanded set of tools and greater policy options for the use of military force in any scenario.




Victory smiles upon those who anticipate the changes in the character of war, not upon those who wait to adapt themselves after the changes occur.

Airpower Theorist Giulio Douhet12

"There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor nore doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order .

Niccolo Machiavelli, 1513 A.D. 13

The history of warfare has been characterized by the ever-increasing capability to wreak violence and destruction, with successive advances in technology continually driving increases in the range, speed and lethality of weapons and armies. The bow and arrow, the mounted cavalryman, the cannon, the tank, and the airplane -- each altered warfare in its time, and contributed to the evolution of the art and science of war. Improvements in supporting capabilities like logistics, intelligence, and communication also served primarily to multiply or enhance the destructive effectiveness of war. As a result, success in battle many times went to the side that was most able to capitalize on the edge that new tactics, weaponry, or capabilities gave them over their enemy. Those who could go further, faster, and hit their enemy with greater firepower usually won. 14

Revolutions in Military Affairs

Occasionally, however,the nature of warfare undergoes a fundamental shift in its character -- not just an evolutionary change, but a revolutionary one that radically transforms the nature and conduct of war. While many developments might cause this shift, some contend that revolutions in warfare reflect both the impact of evolving technology and the changing values and structures of societies. Thus when societies or civilizations transform themselves into something wholly new, their methods of warfare change accordingly. This shift is commonly referred to as a "revolution in military affairs," or RMA, which occurs "when the incorporation of new technologies into military systems combines with innovative operational concepts and organizational adaptations to fundamentally alter the character and conduct of military operations." 15

Noted futurists Alvin and Heidi Toffler have identified three such revolutionary changes throughout the history of warfare, and claim each was precipitated by technological progress and a corresponding transformation in the conduct of human affairs. 16

Food Wars

The Agricultural Revolution spawned early forms of war, they say, by enabling primitive societies to produce food beyond their daily survival needs, which led to the formation of permanent settlements and early social and political structures. As societies and states became more organized, food surpluses became both a means to sustain armies and a resource worth fighting for. In general, warfare during this period revolved around agriculture, with conflicts fought according to the planting and harvesting seasons. Hand-to-hand fighting prevailed, with weapons that evolved from farm and hunting implements, the dominant technology of the period. 17 During the "Age of Tools," as historian Martin van Creveld refers to this period, the technology of war derived its power from the muscles of men and beasts of labor. 18

Machine Wars

Beginning sometime around the 16th or 17th century, technological changes ushered in a second transformation of societies and warfare, giving rise to the "Industrial Age" and the modern nation-state system. The rise of machines and the innovation of interchangeable parts made mass production possible, which spawned social systems that "linked mass production, mass education, mass communication, mass consumption, (and) mass entertainment with increasingly, weapons of mass destruction." 19 Vast improvements in manufacturing and transportation made it economically possible to feed, equip, and transport huge quantities of soldiers. Political transformations created the conditions for national conscriptions and ever larger armies, and professional military staffs were created to "manage" the affairs of war. 20 As war became even more technological, especially in the 20th century, machine warfare became prevalent on the battlefield. With men at the helm, the capabilities and use of machines began to determine ultimate success in battle, with air, naval, and mechanized land warfare all dominated by machines fighting for control of that particular medium. 21

The Impact of Air and Space Technology

In particular, the evolution of air and space -- or aerospace -- technology over the last 50 years profoundly altered the prosecution of war and, many believe, laid the foundation for a third revolution in military affairs. 22 No longer constrained by the physical features of land and sea, warfare in the third dimension brought with it substantial increases in the range, speed, and maneuverability of platforms and weapons. This increased mobility gave aircraft certain advantages over surface forces in terms of overall responsiveness, flexibility and versatility in the application of overwheming destructive force. Any point on the globe can now be affected by aerospace power within hours or minutes with little or no warning, and it allows military power to be brought to bear against any aspect of an adversary's power, be it political, military, economic, or social. Employed at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of war, either simultaneously or separately, air and space power has become integral to military operations on land or sea as well.. 23 This is especially true for the US military when you consider the aircraft carrier's central role in Navy operations, and airpower's impact on the Army's AirLand Battle doctrine and the Marine Air/Ground Task Force concept.

The Synergy of Aerospace and Information Power

The role of space power in military and civilian applications is exploding, especially in the gathering, processing, and dissemination of information. As we move further into the "Information Age," we discover that there is a symbionic and synergistic relationship between aerospace and information power. By spurring the development of satellite, information processing, and communications technology, aerospace power enabled the explosion of information technology around the world. In turn, aerospace power capitalized on the Information Revolution to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its own capabilities. The result, as demonstrated in the Gulf War, was unprecedented precision in striking capability. The synergy of these technogies and capabilities, many believe, have precipitated a third and ongoing revolution in military affairs. 24

Information Wars

Few today disagree that we are entering the Information Age, with its accompanying explosion of knowledge and information technologies. If predictions hold true, incredible amounts of information will be available to anyone who has the right equipment to receive, process, and use it. From live Cable News Network coverage of the Gulf War to the explosive growth of the Internet and the emergence of the "Global Village," we see evidence of radical social transformation around us caused by information technologies. Accordingly, the nature and conduct of war cannot help but also be affected by this ongoing revolution. Indeed, it has already happened, for one of the promises of the RMA is that emerging technologies will allow us to fight a more humane war that minimizes violence and destruction on the battlefield.

American Values, Morality, and the Conduct of War

The U.S. military and its conduct of war tend to reflect the values of our society. As stated in the Army's basic field manual, "the people expect the military to accomplish its missions in compliance with national values. . . . In the end, the people will pass judgment on the appropriateness of the conduct and use of military operations. 25 Political scientist Sam Sarkesian also asserts that in a democracy, all "instruments of policy, domestic and foreign, must operate in accordance with basic rules of law, principles of democracy, and the proper notions of morality and ethics." 26 Thus the American way of war gave rise to the belief that the military would act according to accepted rules of conduct, and were expected to behave honorably, even in times of war. American forces were seen as being on a higher moral plane than the enemy -- that they were fighting the "forces of evil." "Morally and ethically, such perceptions and beliefs justified conflict; U.S. involvement was viewed as just and necessary." 27 When the public perceived that we had lost the moral high ground in a conflict, such as in Vietnam, their support waned and our national policy and strategy changed accordingly.

Sun Tzu believed that the moral and intellectual dimensions of war were decisive, and made the distinction between fighting a righteous and unrighteous war. This "moral influence" was what caused the people to be in harmony with their leaders, and contributed to their willingness to fight for the state. 28 His thoughts parallel contemporary notions of just war. As Michael Walzer states, "No political leader can send soldiers into battle, asking them to risk their lives and to kill other people, without assuring them that their cause is just -- and that of their enemies unjust." 29 Just wars are by their nature limited, with their conduct guided by rules designed to minimize violence against non-combatant, thus protecting their basic human rights of life and liberty. When they combatants choose to fight however, they give up these rights. 30

Today, US policy makers and military leaders are searching for ways to maintain the moral high ground -- and public support -- as they commit American forces to military operations around the world to achieve national policy objectives. In an age where every use of US military force is intensely scrutinized by the media, the American public, and the international community, military operations are severely constrained. In order to gain and hold the moral high ground, rules of engagement for US forces now stress minimizing the number of casualties, both American and that of our adversaries, and limiting the amount of destruction caused by US military operations.

During the air campaign in Operation DESERT STORM, for example, coalition planners followed stringent procedures to select and attack targets to minimize Iraqi civilian casualties. Precision-guided munitions were used in built-up or populated areas and attack routes were planned carefully to reduce the effect of errant ordinance. Pilots could not release weapons until they could positively identify their targets and be sure that their weapons would guide properly. The apparently low number of Iraqi civilian casualties during the war are a testament to these efforts. 31

The concept of non-lethality therefore reinforces America's moral values with regard to respect for human rights and the protection of non-combatants. Other important moral issues are also at stake, however, including the loss of American lives, respect for international boundaries and sovereign rights, and the proper use of public funds. 32 These are just some of the compelling reasons to incorporate the non-lethal application of military force into our military doctrine.



Military commanders will increasingly focus on non-lethal, discriminate, and electronic neutralization of targets, rather than their destruction by fires. 33

The concept of non-lethality is receiving increased attention by US policy makers, the military, the media, and by various organizations concerned with international and internal security. According to a Department of Defense internal guidance memorandum, this is partly due to growing conviction about the potential utility of non-lethal weapons in emerging military missions along with technological advancements that enable their effective employment. Coupled with arms control constraints and political sensitivities to casualties and collateral damage, the use of non-lethal weapons has entered the mainstream of US military strategy. One of their main purposes is to "provide commanders and policy makers additional options between no use of military force at all and use of lethal military force." 34

Definitions and Concepts of Non-Lethality

As a relatively new concept in American military affairs, non-lethality is somewhat ill-defined, and there is much confusion and debate on its meaning. Christopher and Janet Morris, policy analysts who have written extensively on the subject, define non-lethality as "non-lethal and anti-lethal weapons and information warfare to project high-precision power in a timely fashion, delivering results that are life conserving, environmentally friendly, and fiscally responsible." 35 In its definition of non-lethal weapons, the Department of Defense echoes this rationale, calling them "discriminate weapons that are explicitly designed and employed so as to incapacitate personnel or material, while minimizing fatalities and undesired damage to property and the environment." 36

As these definitions illustrate, much of the debate on non-lethality has focused on non-lethal weapons rather than on non-lethal capabilities or non-lethal applications of lethal and non-lethal technology. This focus on weapons unnecessarily limits the debate on non-lethality, and necessitates a broader construct that demonstrates the application of lethal and non-lethal capabilities (including weapons) across the spectrum of peace, conflict, and war.

All military capabilities possess certain basic characteristics with regard to their effect on personnel, materials or objects. By design, their intended effect on personnel can be classified essentially as either lethal or non-lethal, and their effect on material or objects as either destructive or non-destructive. For the purposes of a theoretical construct of force application, these characteristics are defined as follows:

Non-Lethal. The intended effect or use of capabilities in this category is neither to kill nor permanently disable or maim personnel. Non-lethal force may be used to influence individual behavior or to temporarily incapacitate or slightly injure personnel. Accidental death or severe injury may occur even though the intent is otherwise. Sometimes referred to as Less Than Lethal or Low-Lethal.

Lethal. The intended effect or use of these capabilities is to neutralize personnel through injury or death. May result from use of destructive capabilities against material or objects.

Non-Destructive. Capabilities that do not cause permanent physical damage to materials, equipment and/or objects. Equipment may be temporarily disabled or their usefulness degraded or denied without being destroyed.

Destructive. Capabilities whose intended effect on material or equipment is to destroy them wholly or in part in order to permanently degrade or deny their usefulness.

It should be obvious that these definitions do not cover all possibilities, and given the uncertainty of results, that there are varying degrees of lethality or destructiveness. Yet they are useful for framing a construct on the subject at hand, and more easily defined than other potential concepts. The term disabling might be used, for example, but it is subject to wide interpretation and could be considered a subset of each characteristic listed above. What is most important is that these terms accurately convey the intended effect or use of a particular capability when it is applied in a given scenario and the permanence of that effect. If it performs as we expect or plan it to, then what is the intended result?

The Four Dimensions of Force Application

By combining these four basic characteristics into all their possible permutations, we can derive four primary dimensions of force application that indicate their intended, combined effect on both personnel and material. They are briefly summarized as follows:

Non-Lethal/Non-Destructive Force. Does not intend to kill or severely injure personnel nor aim to destroy equipment or material. It may not directly effect them at all, may influence their behavior in some way, or might temporarily incapacitate, disable, or otherwise deny the usefulness of personnel, material, or equipment. Accidental injury, death, or destruction may still occur even though the intent is otherwise. Examples include strategic reconnaissance, electronic jamming, psychological operations, transportation, communications, and riot control agents.

Non-Lethal/Destructive Force. Intended to destroy or disable material, equipment and/or objects wholly or in part in order to permanently degrade or deny their use without also killing or severely injuring personnel. When employed against unmanned weapons or weapon systems, sometimes referred to as anti-lethal. Because destruction may accidentally cause injury or death even though the intent is otherwise, can be referred to as less than lethal or low-lethal. Examples include anti-missile systems, anti-satellite weapons, corrosive or caustic chemicals, anti-folients, and kinetic energy weapons.

Lethal/Non-Destructive Force. The intended effect or use of these capabilities is to neutralize personnel through injury or death without causing permanent physical damage to materials, equipment and/or objects. Equipment may be temporarily disabled or their usefulness degraded or denied without them being destroyed. Highly dependent on proximity of targeted personnel to objects or materials that do not warrant destruction. Many examples from firearms and blade weapons to biological/chemical weapons and the neutron bomb.

Lethal/Destructive Force. Highly lethal application of capabilities to neutralize personnel through injury or death and to destroy material or equipment in order to permanently degrade or deny their employment. May be highly selective or large-scale, and may target personnel, materials, and equipment simultaneously, depending on capabilities used. Unlimited examples ranging from single-shot rifles to precision-guided bombs and nuclear weapons.

Figure 1. The Four Dimensions of Force Application Across the Spectrum of Conflict

Now consider how these four dimensions of force can be applied across a notional spectrum of conflict. At either end of the spectrum is a condition of total peace or total war, with varying degrees of relative peace, crisis and conflict in between. As the level of conflict increases from left to right, so too does the level of violence and destruction. Within this spectrum there are four stages of conflict: peacetime competition, crisis development, crisis and conflict, and conventional war. The first two represent a state of relative peace, while the latter two constitute stages of relative war. War, in this sense, represents the lethal application of force, destructive or not. The transition from one stage of conflict to another is triggered by a "threshold" event, which then results in escalated applications of force. The level and intensity of force applied is commensurate with the severity of a crisis or conflict. For the sake of argument, our goals throughout the spectrum are to minimize the level of violence and destruction, thereby keeping the continuum below the crisis threshold in a state of relative peace. Our intent, in essence, is the maximum use of non-lethal force.

During peacetime competition, a relative state of peace exists between and within nations. In this environment, normal politics, diplomacy and trade relations prevail, with the use of military force generally limited to its non-lethal, non-destructive dimensions. Information gathering, training exercises, and routine deployments are the most visible military activities, all geared towards readiness to deal with higher levels of conflict. The focus of effort is the monitoring of possible or emerging threats to national interests or international stability. At some point, when an event or series of events occur that presage a potential or actual crisis in the making, a warning threshold is crossed.

During crisis development, diplomatic activity increases, information gathering is redirected towards the perceived threat, and military forces begin posturing and planning for conflict. Diplomatic warnings accompanied by shows of military force represent non-lethal/non-destructive demonstrations of national resolve to act in a way that will resolve a crisis. The selective use of destructive force may be considered to deal with operational requirements, but lethal force will generally not be used.

Once a crisis threshold is crossed the full range of lethal/non-lethal and destructive/non-destructive force can be fully utilized as conflict grows increasingly more violent. In this stage, the level of violence and destruction rises sharply in scale as normal diplomatic relations break down and conflict escalates ever closer to conventional war. The force application used will be dependent upon the nature and extent of threats and overall policy goals, with non-lethal force used to complement lethal force and vice-versa.

Crossing the war threshold generally increases the scale of violence progressively towards total war as envisioned by Clausewitz. Since nations in this stage are waging full-scale war, all means of force will be used to prosecute the conflict.

From this construct we can see that the non-lethal/non-destructive use of force has the greatest utility across the entire spectrum of conflict, whereas the intentional use lethal/destructive force is of benefit primarily at the higher levels of conflict normally associated with war.

The Rationale for Non-Lethality

One assumption underlying non-lethal weapons is that they will be employed in accordance with international law and in compliance with national security agreements and treaties. By providing expanded flexible deterrent options for policy makers and military leaders, their use may thus allow the US greater latitude to act below the threshold of war without the costs and political risks associated with the commitment of large-scale ground forces. To the extent that they prevent or shorten war and preclude large-scale deployments or operations, they may also lower the risk for and protect the lives of American and allied personnel. 37

During actual conflict or war, non-lethal weapons can act as force multipliers when used in concert with lethal applications of force. Used effectively to disable or disrupt potential adversaries, they may allow additional time for friendly forces to deploy and prepare for conflict.

A fiscally constrained environment demands that we achieve our goals at the lowest possible cost before, during, and after a crisis or conflict. Because the cost to deter conflict is assumed to be generally less than the cost to wage war, non-lethal warfare may prevent the large, unexpected costs of conventional war, thus allowing us to operate within planned budget authorizations. By limiting the destructiveness of war it may also decrease reconstruction costs following war, and speed the recovery of societies and the normalization of relations. 38

Dilemmas of Non-Lethality

The concept of non-lethality raises many questions about whether or not it can truly be effective in a world used to violent, destructive warfare. Some fear that our emphasis on non-lethality may signal a weakness or unwillingness to act with lethal force, which could provide an incentive for potential adversaries to act against our interests. 39 Thus one of non-lethality's key tenets is that "the United States is not obligated in any way to use only non-lethal weapons, or to try non-lethal weapons before resorting to more lethal means, in any operation." 40 More significantly, they must not in any way increase risk to US personnel, and will in all likelihood be used in concert with the threat or use of lethal force. Weapon systems that can employ a wider range of lethal to non-lethal capabilities will therefore have great utility on the battlefield.

The limited destructiveness of non-lethal weapons also causes concern in extended conflicts, where the enemy may be able to recover warfighting systems quickly and return them to the battlefield, thus requiring additional strikes or the resort to destructive force.41 An enemy soldier not killed can return in the same way.

The Utility of Non-Lethal Capabilities

In order to be useful, the non-lethal application of force must prove to be an effective tool for achieving our national policy goals. As such, non-lethality must provide utility throughout the spectrum of conflict, especially in those situations where violent, destructive force would be counterproductive to achieving those goals. In particular, current and future non-lethal weapons and capabilities should be able to perform the following tasks:

Collect, analyze, and disseminate threat and situational information.

Provide information, transportation, and communications support for diplomatic efforts to deter conflict.

Be able to respond early and project American power immediately in response to unexpected threats or situations.

Operate in permissive or non-permissive environments, overtly or covertly.

Apply military power from stand-off ranges.

Be capable of temporarily neutralizing or disabling material and personnel threats and capabilities without permanent destruction or loss of life.

Be capable of permanently destroying weapons or warfighting capabilities without excessive loss of life or collateral damage.

Be able to discriminate between military and non-military targets

Be able to influence events through means other than weapons. This includes information technology, psychological operations, logistical, and other capabilities.

If used as envisioned, non-lethal capabilities promise to deter aggression while conserving life, resources, and the environment. Thus they promote basic American values, especially respect for human rights, and allow us to maintain the moral high ground in the eyes of the US public, the media, and the international community of nations. In so doing, they support our diplomatic initiatives and increase American credibility around the world. Armed with the full spectrum of lethal and non-lethal capabilities, the United States will possess the ability to act throughout the realm of conflict. In the long run, non-lethal weapons may even serve to reduce violence on all sides by lessening long term animosities and reducing or eliminating some of the causes of war.



Our military capabilities serve to deter aggression and prevent conflict by convincing potential adversaries that their objectives will be denied and their aggression will be decisively defeated. 42

National Military Strategy of the United States

War is thus an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will. 43

Carl von Clausewitz

For thousands of years, man fought war on the land and sea. When he finally slipped the surly bonds of earth to fly, less than one hundred years ago, it added a whole new dimension to warfare. The ability to use and exploit this third dimension - the vertical - came to be known as aerospace power. The Basic Aerospace Doctrine of the United States Air Force defines aerospace power as resulting from "the ability to use a platform operating in or passing through the aerospace environment for military purposes." 44 Joint doctrine further elaborates on the meaning of aerospace: "Of, or pertaining to, earth's envelope of atmosphere and the space above it . . . ." 45

Roles of Aerospace Forces

USAF doctrine identifies four primary roles for aerospace power: aerospace control to control the combat environment; force application to apply combat power; force enhancement to multiply combat effectiveness; and force support to sustain forces.

Aerospace control includes all missions designed to gain control of air and space to allow friendly forces to use and exploit it, and deny its use to the enemy. These include counterspace and offensive or defensive counterair operations. Force application involves the use of interdiction, close air support, and strategic attack missions against enemy surface components and capabilities. Force enhancement missions are those that enhance or improve the capability of combat forces, and include airlift, air refueling, spacelift, electronic combat, special operations, surveillance and reconnaissance. Finally, force support encompasses logistics, combat support, on-orbit support, and base operability and defense. 46

From these statements, it is clear that basic Air Force doctrine relates all the roles and missions of aerospace power to its lethal, destructive applications during war. Throughout the spectrum of peace and conflict, however, many aerospace assets and capabilities that comprise aerospace power can and are being used for purposes other than or short of war. From Bosnia to Rwanda to Haiti, aerospace power is being employed non-lethally in support of national policy objectives. Many capabilities in use are those that traditionally perform a supporting or enabling role in combat operations, including airlift, reconnaissance, and space operations. Now, however, they have become frontline weapons for waging peace with the non-lethal application of aerospace power. As the primary Air Force doctinal manual asserts, "in certain types of warfare, the various force enhancement missions may be the primary contribution of aerospace power to the overall campaign." 47 These missions are ostensibly non-lethal or non-destructive in nature, in other words, they are not intended for or have no inherent capability to destroy or kill. To make current aerospace doctrine more relevant to the demands of the new age, the non-lethal dimensions of aerospace power must be given more attention and articulated clearly to policymakers and military leaders. By so doing, the utility of aerospace power can be enhanced and improved throughout the spectrum of peace and conflict.

The US Air Force: Core Aerospace Capabilities

US aerospace forces possess three core capabilities through which aerospace power is applied. With its highly developed and capable combat, mobility/transportation, and information systems, the US Air Force provides "global awareness, global mobility and sustained combat power" to achieve our military objectives. 48 Although the flexibility of many aerospace systems enables them to perform two or more of these capabilities simultaneously, in the future they must be capable of operating throughout the spectrum of conflict and peace. In the past, the non-lethal application of aerospace power has contributed heavily to the attainment of US national strategy objectives.

The Berlin Crisis

One such example was the Berlin Airlift. In June of 1948, following a year of rising tensions in Europe, the Soviet Union blockaded the city of Berlin in one of the opening salvoes of the Cold War. Within a few days time, the Soviets halted all passenger and freight traffic to and from Berlin, suspended water and coal shipments, and stopped the supply of electricity from the Soviet to the Western sectors of the city. It was a blatant attempt by Moscow to force the Western allies to abandon the city and allow the Soviets to assume complete control of the city. 49 President Truman, already committed to European security through the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, made it clear that Berlin would not be lost when he declared "We must stay in Berlin; we have only to discuss the means through which this purpose can be accomplished." 50 Truman had few options to choose from, not the least of which was the use of armed force to reopen land lines of supply to the city and risk war with the Soviets. He chose diplomacy instead, backed up by a resupply of the city by air, since the air corridors into Berlin were the only access agreed upon in writing between the Soviets and the Western allies. Not wanting to risk war, an airlift of supplies seemed to be the least provocative use of military force. During the next eleven months, a massive airlift operation moved some 2,323,000 tons of food, coal, water, and other supplies into the city - with the average daily lift more than enough to supply the needs of the city. 51 By May of 1949, it was clear to the Soviets that the allies could sustain the airlift indefinitely, and that their blockade of Berlin was futile. Moscow came back to the negotiating table, and soon, all restrictions to the city had been lifted. Thus the use of non-lethal airpower achieved the strategic objectives of US national policy in a major crisis without resort to war.

Aerospace power is especially well suited to perform these and other non-lethal missions because of its inherent capabilities of speed, range, flexibility, responsiveness, precision and increasingly, stealth. Its three core capabilities will be critical to waging war and peace, lethally and non-lethally, in the years to come.


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