Nonlethal Weapons: Terms and References   [open html - 440KB]

The purpose of this paper is to promote an understanding of and research into a new category of weapons, designated "nonlethal" by the military services. These weapons are also classified as "less-than-lethal" or "less-lethal" by law enforcement agencies. National security experts consider these weapons increasingly important in the post-Cold War era. This type of weapon has been used throughout history, but was given new emphasis during the Vietnam War era. Law enforcement agencies and Army national guard units relying upon traditional forms of politico-military force were ineffective in countering US domestic civil unrest. As similar types of conflict, now many magnitudes greater, seem to dominate international politics since the end of the Cold War, this type of weapon takes on increasing importance. The Department of Defense defines these weapons as follows: Weapons that are explicitly designed and primarily employed so as to incapacitate personnel or materiel, while minimizing fatalities, permanent injury to personnel, and undesired damage to property and the environment. Unlike conventional lethal weapons that destroy their targets principally through blast, penetration and fragmentation, non-lethal weapons employ means other than gross physical destruction to prevent the target from functioning. Non-lethal weapons are intended to have one, or both, of the following characteristics: a. they have relatively reversible effects on personnel or materiel, b. they affect objects differently within their area of influence [229:1-2]. Our intent is to create an initial term and reference listing that will help support joint-force and dual-use initiatives focused on identifying the potential drawbacks of integrating nonlethal weapons into our military services and law enforcement agencies. Because of the limited objective of this paper, it consists solely of two sections: a list of terms that describes nonlethal weapons along with the concepts both surrounding and inhibiting their use and a comprehensive listing of references to facilitate further research. The category of nonlethal weapons that offers the capability for information warfare has not been included in this paper because of its association with that distinct form of conflict.

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INSS Occasional Paper 15
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