Nonlethal weapons “can provide a forgiving means of imposing our will on adversaries,” according to a new U.S. military manual (pdf).
Nonlethal weapons (NLW), which do not normally cause fatal injuries, are intended to provide combatants with tools to disable, apprehend or deter an opponent by means short of lethal force. They may be deemed appropriate in urban combat or other environments where civilians are present among opposing forces.
However, by lowering the threshold for violent conflict and diminishing its consequences, nonlethal weapons may paradoxically encourage the outbreak of violence in some circumstances.
The new military manual seeks to preempt confusion about the proper role of nonlethal weapons while promoting their use when suitable. The manual also identifies the NLW capabilities that are currently available for use in each of the military services.
“The existence of NLW does not represent the potential for ‘nonlethal war,’ and unrealistic expectations to that effect must be vigorously avoided,” the document states. “NLW provide a wider range of options that augment, but do not replace, traditional means of deadly force.”
Among their presumed advantages, “NLW can facilitate post-incident stabilization by reducing populace alienation and collateral damage.”
“NLW can reduce the possibility of injury to friendly forces.”
“NLW have relatively reversible effects compared to lethal weapons.”
The new manual on nonlethal weapons has not been approved for public release. But a copy was obtained by Secrecy News.
See “Multi-Service Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures for the Tactical Employment of Nonlethal Weapons,” U.S. Army Field Manual FM 3-22.40, October 24, 2007 (154 pages, 4.5 MB PDF file).
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