Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Foam, Fake Explosives Could Be in Gis' Arsenal for Bosnia

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Foam, Fake Explosives Could Be in Gis' Arsenal for Bosnia

Article excerpt

Along with the standard weapons of war, American GIs in Bosnia will have at the ready an arsenal of "nonlethal" arms to help police the peace.

Among the potential options: shotguns that fire wooden batons or rubber pellets; sticky foam that acts as a high-tech lasso; and "flash bang" explosives.

Barely more than a week before the Bosnia operation is scheduled to start in earnest, the Army says it hasn't decided which of these newfangled weapons it will send with the 20,000 GIs.

But Defense Secretary William Perry left no doubt Thursday that some would go.

"Some units of our forces on some of their missions will have some nonlethal weapons," Perry told the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

He said he couldn't be more specific. His vagueness and the Army's reluctance to discuss what role such weapons may play in enforcing the peace settlement may reflect the political sensitivity of the nonlethal issue.

It is sensitive for several reasons. For one, the Defense Department has no policy on the development and use of nonlethal weapons. A policy is in the works but not yet ready, said one of its architects, Charles Swett. No Laser Guns

One type of nonlethal weapon already ruled out is the laser gun designed to blind people.

In the context of Bosnia, the use of nonlethal weapons is an even touchier matter. That is because of the delicate balance that President Bill Clinton's administration is trying to establish between reassuring the public that U.S. ground troops in Bosnia are on a peace mission and dispelling worries in Congress that the soldiers won't be protected. In the minds of some, nonlethal weapons connote a lack of resolve or a reluctance to use deadly force in the face of dangers that could threaten soldiers' lives.

Gen. Dennis Reimer, the Army's chief of staff, sought to erase that notion when he mentioned recently the possibility of taking nonlethal weapons to Bosnia. He said that would be the Army's first use of them.

"It's good to have them over there," Reimer said. …

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