U.S. Grapples with Use of Nonlethal Agents

By Boyd, Kerry | Arms Control Today, April 2003 | Go to article overview

U.S. Grapples with Use of Nonlethal Agents


Boyd, Kerry, Arms Control Today


PICTURE YOURSELF COMMANDING U.S. forces entering Baghdad. As you march through the streets, you encounter Iraqi mobs armed with stones and two-by-fours exacting revenge against Baath party members or venting their anger against your troops. There might be combatants mixed in with civilians. Your orders are to secure the area with minimum civilian casualties while also protecting your soldiers. If you could choose between firing bullets into the crowd, charging with police batons, or temporarily incapacitating them with chemical agents, what would you do?

To many Pentagon officials, the appeal of such nonlethal chemical agents is obvious. Yet, the wisdom of using nonlethal chemical weapons is far from clear. Critics contend that so-called nonlethal chemical weapons are nearly as lethal as well-known killers, such as grenades and artillery. They argue that their use would undermine the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which bans chemical weapons and requires their destruction. And they warn that much of the world would see U.S. use of riot control agents or stronger nonlethal chemical agents as hypocritical, since the Bush administration cites Iraqi possession and use of deadly chemical weapons as one of its primary reasons for overthrowing President Saddam Hussein. Much of the debate revolves around different legal interpretations of the CWC and U.S. law.

The use of chemical nonlethal weapons is sure to be a subject of discussion in The Hague, where delegations from around the world will gather April 28-May 9 for the first CWC review conference. It is unclear whether any state-party to the treaty will raise the issue at the conference, but many nongovernmental organizations are encouraging states to discuss the legality of using riot control agents and other incapacitating chemicals in military operations.

The Pros and Cons

The basic argument for using nonlethal chemical agents is that military commanders and soldiers often have only two options in conflict: kill or be killed. Drawing on the U.S. military experience in places such as Somalia and the former Yugoslavia, proponents argue that there are times when the military should have an alternative-something that temporarily incapacitates hostile forces or civilians without killing them.

Nonlethal weapons, according to the 1996 Department of Defense directive that established the department's policies on nonlethal weapons, "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." There are various types of nonlethal weapons, including rubber bullets, electromagnetic weapons, sticky foam, and chemical agents. Development and use of chemical agents designed to incapacitate people is particularly controversial.

One military option is using riot control agents to disperse crowds. The CWC defines riot control agents as chemicals that "can produce rapidly in humans sensory irritation or disabling physical effects which disappear within a short time following termination of exposure."

Another nonlethal weapon the military might consider is chemical incapacitants such as the fentanyl derivative used to rescue hostages in a Moscow theater last October, which have more severe effects, such as loss of consciousness, and are longer lasting and more likely to cause fatalities. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

U.S. Grapples with Use of Nonlethal Agents
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.