The Ethics of "Nonlethal" Combat

A paper submitted for presentation to the
Joint Services Conference on Professional Ethics XIX
Washington, D.C.
January 30-31, 1997

Gordon L. Campbell
United States Army Logistics Management College

(The views presented herein are entirely those of the author, and do not represent the official position of the United States Army Logistics Management College, the United States Army, or the Department of Defense.)

SETTING OUR WEAPONS TO STUN: The Ethics of "Nonlethal" Combat

Technology has always influenced the conduct of "foreign policy by other means". Emerging technologies relative to "nonlethal" weapons may offer political choices for limited intervention previously unavailable. These choices will create new challenges for the military profession. As with all choices whose outcomes may affect human beings, ethical dimensions exist. The ethical ramifications of this emerging technology extend from the Jus ad Bellum decision criteria for political decision makers to the combat soldier at the front.


Who in the civilized world could fail to attribute, or at least recognize, the command, "Gentlemen, set your phasers to stun"? Warriors of our science fiction future, though capable of killing on an interplanetary scale, come in peace. Their weapon of choice can be set, by the operator, to merely stun or to kill. The power to kill (depending upon the episode) can even vaporize the adversary. This not only greatly reduces the messy battlefield clean up requirement, but also the possibility of "bad press" resulting from photographs depicting the carnage and horrors of war present in our primitive, late twentieth century reality. Indeed, the realities and horrors of wars aftermath, beamed in nightly from across the globe into our nations living rooms, have made us sensitive, not only to our own and allied casualties, but to those of our adversaries as well.

We are becoming even more peculiar: increasingly we want our wars to be without killing too. That we would not want Americans--civilian or military--killed in war is to be expected. That we wish to avoid killing noncombatants, including enemy civilians, is also not unique, though the lengths to which we expect our military to go to assure noncombatants are not harmed are. But what is quite strange and new, as witnessed in our latest wars, are the growing qualms Americans apparently have about killing enemy soldiers.

Two years later, Sapolsky continues to build upon this "peculiarity":

As we have come to recognize both our strength and our security, we have imposed constraints on ourselves. In particular, we have grown ever more sensitive about casualties--our own military casualties, opponent and neutral civilian casualties, and even enemy military casualties--and we seek to avoid them. This limits our ability to exercise the tremendous power we possess and makes us susceptible to pressures others can ignore.

The "Right" concern expressed by Sapolsky appears, at least to me, to embody an elemental concept of ethical conduct: Restraint. There are certain actions ethical people will not take: Might does not make right. An unethical course of action is unacceptable and will not be implemented. Such alternatives, however, may be pursued by the disingenuous to the detriment of the ethical. I think it is safe to state the cited author truly believes such restraint, at least in war, is an absurdity. I derive this by his response to President Bush's statement, "we are not in the business of slaughter", given when questioned about halting our attacks in Iraq. Sapolsky writes:

What business is war, one might wonder, if not slaughter? The lesson Grant taught America--that war is about death, pure and simple--appears to have been forgotten by the inheritors of his office.

At this point, I wish to merely categorize this viewpoint, not respond to it. In fact, let's push it to the extreme right (so as to help us examine the extreme left) and assign this position the credo:
War is slaughter, so nuke 'em 'til they glow and let God sort them out.


Prior to going to "The Left", let's first establish some terminology and definitions to give us a common frame of reference. The name, "nonlethal", appears to have recently become the winner over such competitors as: less-than-lethal weapons or less lethal weapons (LLWs); defensive weapons; weapons of mass protection; pre-lethal weapons; and the ever more euphemistic, nonlethal technologies and disabling technologies. Let's look at some definitions (and particularly note what they are not saying):

Nonlethal weapons: "...weapons whose intent is to nonlethally overwhelm an enemy's lethal force by destroying the aggressive capability of his weapons and temporarily neutralizing his soldiers" .

Nonlethal technologies: "...weapons that don't necessarily kill, but disable and render opponents harmless".

The use of the word, "intent", is definitely something a philosopher can grab a hold of and beat to submission and beyond. Then again, terms such as "disable" and "temporarily neutralize" may very well send attorneys salivating to international accords, treaties, and conventions relative to armed conflict. These are critical issues we will need to discuss. But, for the moment, let us accept the following quote as an accurate depiction of today's Western political reality:

Nonlethality posits that the world community has become averse to casualties and that the West, and the United States as leader of the world community, must develop and be ready, willing, and able to deploy decisive nonlethal weapons in situations where casualty-tolerant rouge states and subnational or pannational groups must be stopped by casualty intolerant coalition forces. Nonlethality requires...the fielding of usable systems that conserve life and are environmentally friendly and fiscally responsible.

The "Left"

From this I derive the credo for extreme Left, "politically correct", nonlethal, uniformed foreign policy implementation:

To temporarily, with no lasting deleterious effects, differently able opposed persons--in order to create a peaceful education environment to initiate self-enlightenment concerning the errors of their ways--so they will no longer be a danger to themselves and others, and therefore may join the harmonious chorus of the civilized world body politic...

Reality Check

What a pair of choices! Is it really a choice between the extremes of a dark military "Can Do" attitude subordinate to Dr. Strangelove or a Candide, " this the best of all possible worlds..."/"PC", attitude set by a modern Professor Pangloss?

You should not answer this question too quickly. Consider both extreme "credos" well. Until very recently, the "Right" credo was an ever present reality--ask someone with a "pocket rocket" how much discretion they had in the fulfillment of their duties. The technology existed and we were very prepared to use it. Indeed, if we had, God would have been the only one left to sort it out. The world, however, has rapidly least for the moment. This rapid change has sparked a demand for new capability choices in military engagements. One problem: the technology for the choices required by the "Left" credo does not exist.


The very name, "nonlethal weapon", is largely oxymoronic--especially if we are talking about something to be used on the battlefield at a tactical or operational level. Of course, if engaged against a high-tech adversary, software viruses could be used for a "soft-kill". But, this would undoubtedly be used to create an opening for a "hard kill" follow up. However, the notion of strategic nonlethal weapons can encompass electronic, information, and psychological warfare including attacks on power and telecommunication grids inclusive of computer networks. It is not difficult to see how lethal results, however unintended, could directly result from the success of such nonlethal attacks. Pepper spray is a well known nonlethal defensive weapon. It has been both totally ineffective in deterring assailants, and quite effective: it can kill . The truth is, it is very difficult to create a generic, effective weapon which is truly nonlethal: there are just too many variations in the general health and physical condition of people. What may be a minor irritant to one, may very well be deadly to another. At the present time there is no nonlethal substitute for large scale deadly force, when use of large scale deadly force is authorized. Of course, this very statement begs some interesting questions for the creation of rules of engagement for nonlethal weapons.


The technologies publicly known to be under investigation fall into four broad military categories with two principle targets: Anti-personnel and anti-military equipment (some, however, having anti-personnel utility). The categories are anti-sensor, anti-mobility, anti-C4I, and anti-infrastructure. Some of my personal favorites include:

Super Lubricants: Ala James Bond, these can create a slick making it nearly impossible to walk much less operate a vehicle or land a plane.

Super Adhesives: Lend new meaning to the phrase "stick 'em up". Depending upon application (direct spray, bomb or artillery round), they can immobilize people, and turn military hardware into giant paperweights.

Anesthetics: Short term drugs administerable by injection (darts), inhalants (gas), and/or skin contact (sprays): consider it the humane way to bomb your adversary.

Acoustics: Low frequency, high decibel infrasound from high power acoustic generators can cause blurred vision, extreme nausea and even death. Additionally, it can be used to cause metal fatigue, thermal damage and delamination of composite materials. (Noriega only got loud music).

VSI: (Visual Stimulation and Illusion) includes an array of devices. One system utilizes banks of strobe lights flashing at the frequency of brain wave patterns. This can cause vertigo, nausea and disorientation. (The humane way to make your adversary see the light).


The July 1996 issue of Armed Forces Journal contained an article written by Marine Corps Colonel Gary Anderson. Half the article was a near future vignette describing a tactical engagement where the "good guys" (that's us) utilize a mix of lethal and nonlethal weapons to successfully defeat the "bad guys" (them). His approach was an excellent way to demonstrate how such technology could be operationally integrated with our more customary means of dealing with armed and hostile adversaries. However, I couldn't help but feel something was missing. So, journey with me now to a different time, and place. Prepare yourself to experience a different dimension. You are about to enter:

The Ethical Combat Zone


A botched coup attempt in a typical, land locked, third world country against a typical, not-so-nice, pseudo democratic government by a typically even more unpleasant, ultra-(take your pick)-wing group has lead to a very bloody and very nasty civil war--and it is only day 4. Both sides have declared themselves the legitimate government. Government Z, however, has been recognized as the legitimate government by North Korea, Libya, Iraq, and Iran. The United States, albeit unenthusiastically, still recognizes Government A, but wishes not to get involved in "an internal matter". Government A is trying to draw us in.

On day 3, the United States, Britain, and France simultaneously announced their intentions to close their embassies and evacuate all personnel. Four hours after the announcement, Government Z issued a memorandum ordering these nations to leave immediately and remove all their citizens or be prepared to suffer extreme consequences. Government A apologetically informs the United States, Britain and France that due to tactical consolidations it can no longer maintain its forces at the single international airport or near the embassies. However, they graciously allow them to send in their own troops to do what they feel is necessary to secure the evacuation of their citizens.

Government As offer was officially met with general low level statements to the effect that " is hoped that the use of military force will not be necessary..." Meanwhile, the final pieces of Operation Out Back were assembling. The airport would be seized at 0330 and placed under U.S. Military control. By noon, the embassies would be evacuated and all civilians would be at the airport. By 1500, the final military unit would depart. The flow of events, however, did not proceed in accordance with the script.

The Problem

The airport was taken without a shot. U.S. HALO teams secured vital control areas prior to British paratrooper arrival. U.S. Transports then arrived with Marines, light armor, HMVs and helicopters. The airport was sealed up tight by day break. Government A had abandoned it and Government Z forces were no where in sight--until 0900.

Two platoons of Marines, originally detailed for evacuation escort, arrived at the U.S. Embassy just in time to intercept Government Z forces attacking the compound. While the Marines easily turned the assault, the surprised Z forces had, unfortunately, breached the compound. A small force of Z rebels now occupy two buildings: one within the compound, and the new office annex facility located outside the compound across from the main, and only vehicular, gate. Unfortunately both buildings were evacuee staging areas: U.S. citizens within the compound, British and French nationals in the annex. The Z rebels now have hundreds of hostages. Government Z has demanded the unconditional surrender of all invading forces in exchange for the safe release of the hostages. Additionally, they have requested a cease fire with the forces of Government A in order to stem this foreign act of aggression and occupation.

Marine Captain Tanner Hastings, leader of the escort platoons, is now in command of the situation at the Embassy. Via satellite downlink, he transmits his assessment with live images back to the states and to Colonel Kettering, Operation Outback Commander, at the airport:

"The picture you now see is the building the Embassy staff refer to as the "terrarium". Its a one and a half story glass enclosure with free standing office cubicles located in the center. You cant hide in there. There are 12 rebels with automatic weapons and one shoulder fired rocket. We count 126 hostages. If it wasnt for the hostages we could shut these clowns down quick. Theyre sitting ducks. But as it is, even if we had two dozen snipers it would be dicey. They have the hostages lined up in perimeter rings facing us. We shoot and that building turns into a million pieces of shrapnel. Those people will be cut to ribbons. Switch to front annex view."

"The picture you now see is the front of new three story office annex located directly out the main gate. Our information here is sketchy. There are at least 250 hostages. Most are dependents of the British and French Embassy. We have exchanged fire. They have three machine guns on the roof and weve spotted at least six shoulder fired missiles. Their field of fire essentially controls the Embassy compound's main gate and could tag any choppers we care to send in. We now estimate 25 to 30 rebels inside. Switching to rear annex view."

"This is the rear of the building. We smoked three of their vehicles but their largest is still operational. Well zoom in on it. As you can see it is a panel truck located just outside the rear entrance. If we try to take it out that close to the building collateral damage could be high. Pan camera right."

"You now are viewing whats left of a vehicle maintenance facility. These guys were definitely after fuel trucks, sir. None of them made it. Right now the fire is burning out of control but poses no immediate threat. But, if the wind shifts and picks up a bit, it could migrate to the annex complex."

"Bottom line sir, weve got them contained, but so are we. If my men return fire, there is going to be a lot of crowd killing over there. Choppers cant come in, and we cant get out the gate. The evacuation has now turned into a stand off hostage crisis. I think weve got a NICE situation here."

"I concur with your assessment, Captain. Mr. NICE Guy himself, Major Jonathan Que, heard your report with me. Hes on his way. He told me he has a little of everything, not a lot of anything, but he and his "NICE Guys" can get the job done. He will assume operational command when he gets there."

"Captain, you and your men did very well in a bad situation. What weve got isnt good, but it could be a whole lot worse. Frankly, I dont hold a lot of stock in Ques toys, so you and your men look out for him and his with the real thing. By the way, good call on the fuel trucks. The rebels captured the main fuel depot, but dont have the means to get the fuel to their main force. Thats why they werent here to greet us at the airport when we arrived. Ques arranged something special for them as well. Good Luck."

Yeast Meets West

Three attack choppers close in on the rebel held fuel depot. Each targets one of the three large storage tanks. Six specially designed, top attack, penetration missiles strike each tank. The choppers scatter in a barrage of shoulder fired missiles and ground fire. One is downed.

Fighting NICE

Following some elementary demolition work, Major Que, his men and equipment, entered the embassy compound via a newly created south gate. All nonessential, noncombatant personnel not captured by the rebels were then safely evacuated. By the time of his arrival, cartography computers state side were transmitting back maps, accurate to with in a foot, of the embassy compound and annex areas held by the rebels. These were based upon the video report transmitted via satellite by Captain Hastings.

Que lacked the materiel for a combined, simultaneous assault. He was concerned about reprisals on the hostages if he attacked each site in turn. Hastings had already cut all power and communication lines to the "terrarium" but he couldnt rule out the possibility of the rebels having their own communication devices. Que deployed four of his ten robots with HPM (High powered microwave transmitters) to erect a communication curtain around the building. These would have to be shut down before his men could safely begin an assault. The rebels twice tried to use a sniper on the roof to take out the robots as they moved to their locations. Hastings was pleased to report the rebel force now numbered ten. It was apparent the rebels had figured out their ability to safely fire out of the building was nearly as restricted as the Marines to fire in.

Que had to get his men across 30 yards of open terrain, in the building, and neutralize 10 hostiles among 126 hostages. It was just too easy. His biggest concern was a suicide stand by the rebels during the brief time they realized they were under attack, but before he could get his men in the building. The remaining robots, equipped with LELs (low energy lasers) were in position. Three of the four LEL mounted HMVs, each with a specially equipped six man assault team, were ready to take their position. The fourth, containing the assault team leader, Captain Andrew L. Weber, came to report to Que. He couldnt help but laugh out loud at Hastings reaction to Weber as he exited the back of the vehicle. He looked like a spaceman out of a bad 1950s Sci-Fi movie. He was dressed head to foot in a reflective, metallic jump suit that shimmered in variant colors. He carried a spherical, "cue-ball" helmet having the same reflective properties but for the black visor. The men inside were identically dressed with their weapons shrouded in material of similar properties. Captain Hastings welcomed him to Earth.

"Thank you, were glad to be here. Major, Assault Force Broadway is ready to assume position."

"Very good. You, perhaps, have a question or two Captain Hastings?"

"My snipers can keep the rebels away from the doors, but a blind man can see your men in those outfits. Whats gives?"

"First of all, Captain, all men not assigned to this assault are to be pulled back and out of any visual contact with the operation. This includes your snipers. Second, were going to put your blind man theory to the test. Explain the operation, Captain Weber."

"Yes sir. The robots are equipped with LELs, as are our HMVs. We cant get the HMVs safely into position until we deactivate the HPM screen--and we dont want to do that until the rebels have something to occupy their thoughts. The LEL frequencies have been modulated to maximize the Bucha Effect. This is induced by color combinations of blue and red flashing at brain wave pattern frequencies. It takes some time, however, before nausea and disorientation take effect, but the brightness is overwhelming. Its like trying to look through a thousand flash bulbs going off every second--and the harder they look the more quickly the effect is induced."

After thirty seconds they wont be able to distinguish anything past the robots. After one minute, anything outside the building is a blazey haze. Thats when well add the HMV LELs to the show. The power of each HMV system is four times that of a single robot. When the screen is down, well move the HMVs to about 25 yards from the building--they cant see us and we dont want them to hear us either. My men and I will then approach the building on foot. These suits you like so much render us virtually invisible in the LEL environment. Our visors filter the harmful effects and allow us to see well enough to get into position."

"See well enough? Can you distinguish between a hostile and a hostage?"

"It depends. Once were ready to enter the building, the LELs will disengage and we can raise our visors. After having been subject to the equivalent of several million flash bulbs, my "spacemen" will continue to be invisible to the occupants. So as the Major said, well put your blind man theory to the test. The majority, if not all the occupants should be completely disoriented, if not nauseatingly ill. My men and I will then cull the hostiles, either nonlethally or lethally: that decision depends on them. Our weapons are an over and under design. Right hand trigger for the lethal upper barrel and left hand trigger for the nonlethal lower barrel. The left hand thumb controls a switch for two different types of rounds. Once weve accounted for all the hostiles, well need your men to aid the Embassy medical staff while my men prepare the equipment for the next assault."

"Major, Dietrich, ah, Captain Pann, asked me to tell you he will be ready to initiate his assault as soon as I can have my men and equipment in place. He requests Captain Hastings men provide cover to our rear and that you contact him once the screen is down. I estimate it will take about 90 minutes to reconfigure the robots and put them in place. I think Dieters plan will definitely catch these guys napping. He also said he received a report that all missiles struck their targets at the depot. One chopper was downed and the two man crew captured. The rebels announced they chased off the attack and the American weapons failed to detonate and merely "harmlessly punctured the top of the tanks".

"Very good Captain. Get into position. At 1330 you may commence at your discretion. Captain Hastings, youve got twenty minutes to pull back your men. Lets get going. Good luck."


The assault was initiated per plan. The dazzling lasers were extraordinarily effective. Once the screen was down, Weber and his men were free to utilize the communication devices integrated into their helmets for a real time coordinated assault. Weber had his men at their designated points of entry within in five minutes of the LEL commencement. They adhered microphones to the glass walls to hear what was going on inside.

The total of the teams reports accounted, to the best of their belief, for 8 of the 10 rebels. The visor filters made definite targeting an impossibility. Weber could hear screaming and yelling, but no shots. He waited. One more probable hostile located. Six different probable hiding sites now given for the last hostile. 10 minutes have elapsed. The screaming continues. Weber wants to narrow the location probabilities. The Bucha effect is well under way. Most of the screaming has subsided. It has been replaced by retching and moaning. Two probable hiding locations have been eliminated. Weber waits. Sounds of agony and retching continue. Children cry for their mothers. Weber demands that tenth location. Orders the extraction cables glued to the glass. Retching sounds permeate the building. Weber orders the glass anchored cables leading back to the HMVs tightened. Retching, crying and whimpering are all that is heard. 20 minutes have elapsed. Team four reports a location. Weber orders his men back for the application of the caesium hydroxide. The glass is thick. 25 minutes have elapsed.

Weber orders the HMVs into full reverse. Four perfect portals are created in the glass walls as the large pieces are extracted by the cables. Weber disengages the LELs and his men enter the building. Anguishing screams of pain are heard from the vicinity of team 3. Two men each close in on the given hostile locations.

At entry point two, a dazed and probable hostile grabs a screaming woman by the waist and stumbles to a door. A Marine takes aim. With his left hand he fires a bean bag round directly at the womans stomach. When she doubles over he squeezes off one round with his right hand: perfect head shot.

It was over within thirty seconds. Eight, very sick rebels were bound and dragged out of the building. One was dead and the remaining lay unconscious at entry point 3. He was left for the support team. Que had Hastings and his men there immediately and ordered Weber to regroup and prepare for the next assault. Hastings was to give Que, and only Que, an after action assessment. Furthermore, his men were not to discuss what they saw, with anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Off Broadway

Hastings, his men, and the Embassy medical team couldnt believe what they saw. Many of the former hostages looked as though they were mortally infected plague victims. Several were up but very disoriented. Only three appeared to know what was going on. They werent the picture of health, but they were trying to give comfort the best they could. Vomit was every where. The unconscious rebel apparently passed out from pain. Both legs appeared to be burned off a quarter way down his thighs. Somehow he must have got hit with a stream of the caesium hydroxide. A foot higher and he would have been burned in half. A Medic was treating a woman with severe abdominal contusions. The embassy doctor knew the woman. She was pregnant. The doctor didnt hold out any hope for the fetus. Beside her laid a dead rebel: bullet in his head with his hand still clutching his pistol. Four hostages were dead. One infant appeared to have drown in her own vomit: her mother still too disoriented to understand the situation. Two children and one adult completed the casualty list. The LELs induced epileptic seizures: in their case, status epilepticus. Their seizures caused cessation of breathing. With no one to render assistance, they simply died. The adult was the wife of the ambassador and one of the children their only child. A nurse identified the other child as the son of the Marine Captain in command of the Embassy Guard. He was killed defending the compound when it was breached. A Medic was attempting to sedate the distraught mother. Hastings didnt know whether to throw up, scream or cry. He could see the "NICE" Guys collecting their equipment for the next "nonlethal" assault. Weber was making his rounds and slapping his men on the back. He could imagine the words being exchanged. His Com-link vibrated. It was Que. He wanted that assessment, now and in person.

Hastings put his Lieutenant in charge, repeated the gag order, and left to report to Que. To his chagrin, he was spotted by a jubilant Weber.

"Hey Hastings! Hold up a minute! Hey, slow it down, youve got plenty of time to assemble your men for the next show."

Hastings stopped. At least it would stop Weber from shouting such arrogant absurdities. Weber caught up with him.

"Well, Hastings what do you think of our "toys" now? Not even a scratch on my men, all the hostages freed, nine prisoners, and one rebel killed: and that only due to his stupidity! Imagine my shock when my sergeant reported he bagged a hostage to neutralize a rebel. Said he got the idea from an old movie. Hey, what ever works, right? I dont mind telling you, Im glad I waited to penetrate the building. Locating that last rebel, combined with the additional Bucha effect, probably saved some of my men. Damn that was great! Look, well talk later, Ive got to position my men for the annex assault. Cover our backs, and leave the rest to us!"

As Hastings watched Weber sprint over to the HMVs heading toward the "south gate" all he could think was that the SOB didnt ask about the hostages.

On Que

When Hastings arrived, a stern looking Que escorted him to an empty office and closed the door. Hastings gave him his assessment in graphic detail. He disclosed Webers admission of delaying entry and a Marines purposeful "bagging" of a noncombatant. Ques countenance hadnt altered throughout the report.

"A good, factual report, thank you Captain. We werent 100% effective, but then again, the casualties were considerably lower than the desk jockeys predicted. The gag order is still in effect Captain. Dont disclose anything, particularly to my men. When this is over well review every aspect of the mission, ad nauseum. But not before. If they ask, tell them I said no disclosure. Do you have anything else to add?"

"Yes I do, Major. With all due respect, sir, I may not know much about your weapons and tactics, but Ive seen the results first hand. It would seem to me you need to change your engagement protocols. In my opinion they were responsible for the injury and death of those innocent hostages. I recommend you change them before the next assault. There are..."

"Youre right, Captain, you dont know much about our weapons and tactics, our training, or my men. Your opinion, therefore, doesnt carry much weight. My men are all trained, CQB proficient, professionals. Webers delay may have very well saved the mission, as well as the lives of his men and the hostages. That woman and the Marine who fired, not to mention others, may only be alive because of his quick thinking. I will not have my men going into the next assault questioning their equipment, tactics, ability or judgment. A moment of doubt, a split second of indecision, could get them all killed. You keep the facts, as well as your opinions, to yourself. Have I made myself clear? Now get your men and report to Captain Pann for your position assignments. Dismissed."

The Annex

At first examination, the office annex looked to big to tackle. Que lacked sufficient manpower and equipment to conduct an assault with a reasonable margin of safety for the hostages. LELs would have limited if any effect: windows could be covered or exterior rooms abandoned. Initially, anesthetizing gas looked promising. However, even if his men managed to get it into the ventilation system, the rebels, if they discovered the tactic, could always plug the vents and open windows. The infrasound generators would shake things up a bit, but he could only effectively attack two sides of the building. Also, like the LELs, the rebels could retreat to the interior or different side of the building. Unlike the LELs, his men were just as susceptible to the infrasound as the rebels. The vehicle and rebels on the roof were easy. If he could just lure more rebels on the roof the assault would be a lot simpler.

Captain Dietrich Pann was in charge of the annex assault force. His plan was an ingenious integration of the equipment they had available. All but one aspect of his plan would, in all probability, be operational failures. It was their diversionary aspect he was counting on. His concern over the annex potentially catching fire literally sparked his solution. The key to mission success was the buildings sprinkler system. If he could control that, it was far superior to the ventilation system. All he had to do was pump his supply of dimethyl sulphoxide into the sprinkler main and turn on the system. The result should be close to Sleepy Hollow.


The siege commenced at 1500 with a robotized frontal assault. Six infrasound equipped robots approached the target with their acoustic beams constantly modulated to achieve constructive interference. Once the harmonic wavelength of the structure was calculated the amplitude was increased. The resonance could already be seen in the vibration of the windows, and within minutes, they began to shatter.

The rebels were not idle. All three machine guns were repositioned to the front of the roof and began harmlessly blasting away at the robots. When they brought all their missiles to the roof, Phase II of the assault was sprung. The targets were all personnel on the roof, now numbering 15 rebels and five hostages, and the truck in back.

The precise three dimensional target coordinates had been fed in to the multiple rocket launch system. It was positioned within the embassy compound and out of visual contact with the annex. The rebels had fired three of their own missiles and taken out one robot. Que only needed three to maintain resonance. The diversion was a success. He ordered the firing of the MRLS.

The special cellulose rockets exploded 6 meters above their targets. It was a messy business--and sticky. The entire roof top and the truck were coated in a aqueous foam resembling the head on a pint of stout. All firing ceased. Within thirty seconds of exposure to air, the foam hardened like concrete. Que hoped that at least half the rebels were now out of it. He ordered Pann to begin Phase III.

Four LEL robots closed in on the back of the building. When the intensity became too great for the rebels to continue firing at them from the windows, the LEL equipped HMVs moved in. With the building providing "a shadow" to the acoustic attack continuing in front, Weber and his men penetrated the basement of the building without incident. Pann and his equipment followed. Once the sprinkler main and control panel were secured, the men donned their NBC suits. According to plan, Pann piggy-backed the dimethyl sulphoxide to the sprinkler main and manually turned on the system. Following forty-five minutes of DMSO push, the LEL and acoustic attacks were terminated and NBC suited NICE guys swept the building: room by room, floor by floor with the infiltered sprinklers still showering the occupants. Sixteen, rather well sedated, rebels were taken prisoner without incident. Two were found dead. The airspace now safe, choppers deposited teams on the roof to chisel out "stuck" hostages and rebels.

Casualty Report

Though NICE3 markets HASty-NOT as "95% effective in nonlethal applications", two rebels who were unfortunate enough to be "stuck" face down in sand bags apparently died of suffocation. The remainder of the personnel on the roof, though sunburned, were unharmed, though they did display extreme animosity to their rescuers--particularly the French hostages.

As predicted, with each external assault the rebels had retreated to interior portions of the structure. Not predicted, however, was their tactic of locking the majority of the hostages in the externally facing rooms bearing the attack. The hostages on the LEL side of the building displayed no ill effects. As anticipated, many, where possible, merely drew the blinds and/or covered their eyes and looked away during the brief and relatively mild attack. The acoustic side, however, was a different story.

Cuts, scrapes, bangs, bumps, and bruises were the norm among the hostages held in the front of the annex. Glass windows, picture frames, table tops, desk covers, even a pair of glasses shattered. All the ceilings in the front offices collapsed. Two pacemakers malfunctioned resulting in the death of their owners. Twenty hostages suffered inner ear damage. Only time will tell if their damage is permanent.

The success of the DMSO also exacted a price. 138 hostages complain of multiple ailments including extreme headaches, transient disturbances in color vision, photophobia, nasal congestion, shortness of breath, itching, garlic like taste and skin odor, facial swelling and dyspnea. Three hostages, in addition to the two rebels, suffered an extreme, and unfortunately fatal, anaphylactoid reaction.

Pull Out

All the former hostages, remaining noncombatants, and prisoners were safely evacuated to the airport by 1300 the following day--their medical needs greatly hampering evacuation. Colonel Kettering was encouraged by reports that the rebels were only now filling fuel trucks at the depot. It would take at least eight hours for them to fuel enough vehicles to mount a viable attack on the airport and six hours for them to get here--if unharrassed. According to Que, that was at least four more hours than the rebels had. The rebels now claimed six military prisoners and two civilian. Ketterings orders were to try to negotiate a prisoner exchange before the rebels discovered their predicament. In any case, he was to be completely out in 24 hours. Ground attack aircraft would cover his departure.

The rebels were slow to negotiate. True to Ques timetable, 14 hours before close down, the rebels knew the true extent of damage the depot attack had caused. The fuel had been contaminated by a specially engineered bacteria which feeds on liquid hydrocarbons. Its analogous to yeast which produces carbon dioxide and alcohol in fermentable suspensions such as grape juice and liquid malt--all the while reproducing more hungry yeast at an incredible rate. This bacteria, however, "ferments" in fuel, reproduces a thousand times faster than yeast, and produces CO2 and something akin to model airplane glue. The effect of such contaminated fuel on engine systems unfortunate enough to be running on it does not require much imagination.

Law of Unintended Consequences

The rebels stopped negotiating. The evacuation force withdrew without further incident. Government Z and the countries recognizing it, now including Serbia, and Sudan, have accused the United States of violations of the Biological Warfare Convention; Chemical Warfare Convention and Geneva Protocol; the Certain Conventional Weapons Convention; and the Geneva Convention (for the targeting and causation of unnecessary suffering of noncombatants). They have petitioned the United Nations to establish a War Crimes Tribunal to investigate, try and convict all military personnel associated with the attack. If this is not accomplished, the prisoners will be tortured and executed as war criminals in accordance with their laws. Furthermore, they will publish the names and pictures of all identified personnel associated with the attack and offer rewards for their execution.

From Fiction to Philosophy

The preceeding account, of course, was purely fictional. However, it may very well represent near term application potentialities of technologies presently under investigation. If and when these and other technologies become fieldable, the ethical questions raised in this fictional account will become a reality. Our "nonlethal" capabilities today are as crude as the wheel-lock musket to the M-16; the Sopwith Camel to the F-117; the Mercury space capsule to the Space Shuttle; the 8018 computer chip to the 200 MHz Pentium processor--notice the pace at which technology now advances. The cycle of fiction to fact to obsolescence is ever quickening. Ethical implications should be anticipated and addressed in advance. Thoughtful ratiocination can reduce the impact of, or eliminate, "The Law of Unintended Consequences". To this end, I posit these initial questions for your consideration and our future discussion:

1. Is war "slaughter" or is war what we either make it or allow it to be?

2. If we, as a nation, have the ability to create and field "nonlethal" weapons, do we have the ethical obligation to do so?

3. Do "intentions" in using "nonlethal force" negate ethical culpability if:
a). lethality results?
b). permanent disability results?

4. What are the ethical implications of restricting the use of nonlethal weapons to situations where lethal force is authorized? (This was done in Somalia).

5. Does the restriction cited in question 3 provide an answer, or at least a response rationalization, for question 2?

6. Ethically, can there ever be a "typical" situation, in a "typical" country requiring our military intervention.

7. Both in theory and practice a line exists between acceptable collateral damage and the intentional targeting of noncombatants. Do nonlethal weapons:
a). make the line "thinner"?
b). redraw the line?
c). erase the line?

8. Given our present and immediately foreseeable technology, our "Nonlethal" weapons, simply put, arent. Is tacit acceptance of an erroneous name ethical? Does the name create a problem of false expectations of:
a). the general public?
--are we setting ourselves up to be viewed as incompetent baby killers?
b). the political leadership?
--war, in accordance with Jus ad Bellum, is to be entered into only as a last resort
--will the "promise" of "nonlethal" weapons place the military into situations previously avoided and handled diplomatically?
c). the soldier?
--premise for discussion
the psychological effect on a soldier:
using a lethal weapon against a target and killing is/will be different than using a "nonlethal" weapon against a target and killing

9. My research has indicated that "nonlethal" weapons have been "pushed" from the Labs and Commercial Sector more than "pulled" from the "fighting" military. Todays acquisition environment is to first rely on the commercial markets ability to meet our needs, second to use a performance specification, and at extreme last resort, to use a design specification (this means you will rewrite your performance specification so it can be met prior using a design specification). a). can a performance specification for an effective and truly "nonlethal" weapon be written?
--could it be met?
--would industry try?
[without a design specification, there is no "Government Specification Defense": the manufacturer could be held liable for "non-nonlethal" and "nontemporary" disabling effects]

b). a poor performance specification was jokingly quoted: "95% effective in nonlethal applications"
--what does this mean?
--how do you test it?
---do you use "volunteers"?

10. Is there merit in the cited allegations regarding violations of:
a). the Biological Warfare Convention?
b). the Chemical Warfare Convention and Geneva Protocol?
c). the Certain Conventional Weapons Convention (the full title being the "Convention on Prohibition or Restriction of the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to have Indiscriminate Effects")
d). the Geneva Convention?

11. If any answer to question 10 is yes:
a). is there a difference between the "law of treaty" and intent?
b). would the --development, --manufacture, --acquisition, --testing, --fielding, --use of some of the "nonlethal" technologies depicted, place place our country outside the law of international treaty and place our soldiers at risk of being branded war criminals?
--if yes:
--is this ethical?
--how is it to be avoided?


Harvey Sapolsky and Sharon K. Welner, "War without Casualties", Across the Board (October 1994, p. 39).

Harvey M. Sapolsky and Jeremy Shapiro, "Casualties, Technology, and Americas Future Wars", Parameters (Summer, 1996, Vol. XXVI, No. 2, p. 119).

Ibid. Page 121.

Chris Morris, Janet Morris, and Thomas Baines, "Weapons of Mass Protection: Nonlethality, Information Warfare, and Airpower in the Age of Chaos", Airpower, (Spring 1995, Vol. 9. Issue 1).

"Policy Group Urges Research in "Less-Lethal" Weaponry", Army Times, (7/17/95, Vol. 55, Issue 51).

Op cit. Chris Morris, et al.

Christine Tatum and Thomas Whittle, "Defensive Weapons Do's and Don'ts", Security Management, March 1995.

"Disabling Technologies: A Critical Assessment", International Defense Review, (7/1994, p 33).

All due apologies to the memory and estate of Rod Serling. Hereafter referred to as Government A. Hereafter referred to as Government Z. This, of course, has been coordinated. The evacuation will be a joint operation. Actually, NICE3 , is the registered trade mark of Nonlethal Interdiction Combat Enterprises, Manufacturer of: Nonlethal Interdiction Combat Equipment, and Instructor of : Nonlethal Interdiction Combat Expedients. Their slogan has become almost as well known as their name: When your intentions aren't lethal--think NICE3. Hardening

Additional References

Covault, Craig. "NATO Eyes Protection For Military Transports", Aviation Week & Space Technology. (March 14, 1994).

The Economist. "The Information Advantage". (June 10, 1995).

Eikenberry, Karl W. "Take No Casualties", Parameters. (Summer, 1996).

Lorenz, COL Frederick M. "Less-Lethal Force in Operation UNITED SHIELD", Marine CORPS Gazette. (September, 1995).

"Non-Lethal Force: The Slippery Slope to War?", Parameters. (Autumn 1996).

OConnell, CAPT Edward P. and 1st LT John T. Dillaplain. "NONLETHAL CONCEPTS: Implications For Air Force Intelligence", Airpower Journal. (Winter, 1994).

Pexton, Patrick. "Policy Group Urges Research in "Less-Lethal" Weaponry", Army Times. (July 17, 1995)

Rosenberg, Barbara Hatch. "Non-Lethal Weapons May Violate Treaties", Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. (September/October, 1994).

Scott, William B. "Panels Report Backs Nonlethal Weapons", Aviation Week & Space Technology. (October 16, 1995).

Smith, Senator Bob. "Nontraditional Missions Demand Less-Than-Lethal Weapons", Armed Forces Journal International. (June, 1996).

Stanton, Martin N. "What Price Sticky Foam?", Parameters. (Autumn, 1996).

Starr, Barbara. "Non-lethal weapon puzzle for U.S. Army", International Defense Review. (April, 1993).

"Pentagon Maps Non-Lethal Options", International Defense Review. (July, 1994).

Szafranski, COL Richard. "A Theory of Information Warfare: Preparing for 2020", Airpower Journal. (Spring, 1995).