Nonlethal weapons

There’s an interesting article in today’s NYT Magazine on the development of new weapons that hurt or otherwise incapacitate their victims, without killing them. Proponents say these weapons will revolutionize war, not just because fewer people will die, but also by making it less psychologically traumatic for the soldiers involved. Instead of the old choice of shoot or don’t shoot, they’ll be able to ward off threats without taking lives. Among the nonlethals’ critics are, unsurprisingly, old-school military men who see everything in black or white. But others argue–and I think rightly–that an arsenal of so-called nonlethal weapons will blur existing lines about when and how weapons should be used. For instance, people might begin to use them where they would otherwise not use anything, under the assumption that it’s okay because no one dies. But the general sense seems to be that these weapons are a good thing, and we should continue developing them. Fewer people dying is fewer people dying, and there’s not much talking around it. It gives me hope that someday, even if we never reach the enlightened state of being able to talk out our problems, at least we won’t have to kill whole populations just to get our points across.

An excerpt:

Mike McBride, a specialist in nonlethal weaponry, told me, ”the idea that you can neutralize the enemy without killing them is an increasingly attractive proposition.” He said that ”we’re heading toward the day when, like ‘Star Trek,’ you can set the phaser on stun. That’s the holy grail of less-than-lethal weapons.”’

Article here.

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at]