Nonlethal Capabilities: Realizing the Opportunities

By E.R. Bedard Defense Horizons 9



The use of lethal force has not always been appropriate to handle situations that the U.S. military has faced in the post-Cold War world. Nonlethal weapons offer a precision, accuracy, and effective duration that can help save military and civilian lives, break the cycle of violence by offering a more graduated response, and even prevent violence from occurring if the opportunity for early or preclusionary engagement arises.

Fully exploiting nonlethal capabilities will require the refinement of existing technologies and the creation of new technologies. The effectiveness of the capabilities must be sufficiently reliable and predictable to give commanders confidence in their employment. Because nonlethal capabilities are a fairly new concept to domestic and international publics, military and civilian decisionmakers must be educated about them.

As we step forward into the 21st century, we must look for new opportunities to leverage developing and emerging technologies that enable warfighting commanders to capitalize on the full spectrum of nonlethal capabilities. The value added will best be realized when we ensure that technology, operations, and policy are in balance, and the education of the American leadership, warfighters, and public is complete. These capabilities must become part of our daily lexicon.