Non-Lethal Weapons as Legitimizing Forces? Technology, Politics, and the Management of Conflict

Non-Lethal Weapons as Legitimizing Forces? Technology, Politics, and the Management of Conflict

Non-Lethal Weapons as Legitimizing Forces? Technology, Politics, and the Management of Conflict

Non-Lethal Weapons as Legitimizing Forces? Technology, Politics, and the Management of Conflict

Synopsis

Whether in international military interventions or routine policing activities the use of force raises a host of questions about appropriateness, necessity and proportionality. Recent attention has focused on the possibility of so-called 'non-lethal' weapons to provide greater legitimacy to the use of force by minimizing injury. Acoustic weapons that shatter windows and cause internal damage, electromagnetic pulse beams designed to knock individuals down and cause seizures, and chemical agents that act as calmatives are all envisioned. Provides an empirically rich and conceptually informed study which describes the current 'state of the art' weapons and focuses on their justifications through a highly novel combination of insights from security and peace studies, criminology, and science and technology studies. Will be of interest to anyone concerned about past and future development of force and the operation of risky technologies.

Excerpt

On first sight, non-lethal weapons are attractive. Surely it is better to only temporarily injure someone than kill him or her. However, if misused, so-called non-lethal weapons kill. For example, as shown in Vietnam and Northern Ireland, riot-control 'incapacitating' gases such as tear gas and cn can kill if used in confined spaces. and the use of rubber bullets and stun guns has often caused fatalities.

History shows that weapons-lethal and non-lethal-often do not work in the ways their manufacturers claim. We have, for example, seen how frequently 'precision-guided' weapons, designed to reduce 'collateral damage', fail to hit their targets.

Non-lethal weapons raise important questions about how death and injury should be weighed, bringing in judgements about the value of life and the legitimacy of weapons. Most people would disapprove of the use of, for example, laser weapons to blind troops, regarding them as inhumane weapons.

One wonders about the non-lethal weapons now being researched-such as acoustic infrasound weapons, designed to nauseate and disorientate; electromagnetic pulse beams, designed to increase body temperatures to intolerable levels by heating water under the skin; and a variety of chemical agents and psychotropic drugs, to induce hallucinations, anxiety and fatigue by targeting specific cells in the brain.

In particular, the development of genetically engineered microbes and psychopharmological drugs for use as future human incapacitants will raise serious and difficult questions about the definition of biological weapons and the scope of the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. Just how benign will these 'non-lethal' weapons be? Not very, argues Brian Rappert in Non-lethal Weapons and Legitimizing Forces?

Non-lethal weapons raise important questions about the legitimacy of the use of force. These questions should be addressed in relation to future developments in national, regional and global security. Security at all levels will have to be fundamentally redefined to take into account future threats that will have evolved from a variety of global problems.

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