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Old 05-14-2010   #1
Chris jM
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Question Enhancing Less Lethal capabilities within the Army?

I'm starting this topic with the intention of furthering my own understanding of Less Lethal capabilities and the ramifications there may be for an Army intent on embracing them. I had never questioned the need for the capability before I spoke to an offr in charge of developing my army's less lethal capability, and a lot of what was being said set alarm bells off in my mind.

The only document/ discussion I found on SWJ can be found here: http://smallwarsjournal.com/documents/capstick.pdf, ('Non-Lethal Weapons and Strategic Policy Implications for 21st Century Peace Operations' by LTC Paul R. Capstick). It dealt with 'policy implications' but not about tactical or force-employment considerations, to which I am primarily interested/ confused over. LTC Capstick's summary was, basically, Less Lethal (LL) is good:

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The U.S. urgently needs to provide its military forces involved in peace operations with additional non-lethal weapons. This will ensure the troops are provided a credible, incremental ability to turn up the levels of force, while improving their utility as authority figures in tumultuous environments. All of this results in greater strategic and operational flexibility for national policymakers as the U.S. maintains the moral high ground as the world’s sole superpower.
I have never really seen the need to disagree with the premise that the ability to subdue is great, especially when one considers the only other resort may be 5.56mm. Yet a lot of the reasoning behind the sourcing and universal fielding of LL is somewhat dubious.

For example, in discussion, it was stated that LL allows a soldier to neutralise a possible suicide bomber if uncertainty exists. Well, uncertainty will exist up until it's too late, and I sure as hell would not want any of my soldiers second-guessing an appropriate response in that kind of situation. If the ROE requirements have been met, in the suicide bomber case it is better to go straight to lethal than dither around with force-preserving measures (especially if you are right - I don't know what would happen if you hit a HE-laden vest with a taser, and I don't want to find out. Also, any 'dicker' able to detonate the bomber as a back up wouldn't care if the bomber is crying from tear gas or not).

Another point was made that the public/ govt would not support an unnecessary body count. True, and if my army is killing people overseas unnecessarily I hope there would be a huge outcry to pull us into line. This comes back to the argument I have heard a lot from Col Gentile and can't fault, in that 'good strategy' should prevent us from having to be put in that situation in the first place. The use of an army as a foreign civil-police service is ill-advised if not downright dangerous. Maintaining a monopoly over violence is legitimate, but that should not extend to an enforcement of the civil situation. Host nation security elements and expeditionary police units (I think Formed Police Units is the UN term) are set up for and trained to conduct those kind of 'building tasks'. There is a very real danger that, by equipping an army with LL across the board, the expectation comes that troops can be deployed at minimal risk to all involved.

In another, unrelated discussion, I sat in on a planning session intending to identify capabilities my army currently lacks to conduct certain types of operations. LL was raised for the same reasons as above, with the philosophy being that we could not mount an expeditionary operation into a foreign population if we didn't have the ability to subdue belligerent civilians without killing them. This 'go/no-go' hitching firmly on LL is understandable in the current risk-adverse and media-paranoid frame-of-mind but isn't correct. A common sense escalation of force allows a force solely equipped with lethal weapons to achieve their mission, from the whole gambit of yelling, posturing, warning shots through to fixing bayonets. Simply saying we couldn't undertake an op because 'we might have to kill someone' is a very dangerous line of reasoning, and one we should avoid. I go back to my previous comment and believe that if it is imperative no-one gets hurt or killed the involvement of the military is flawed.

Some dangers of the above 'must have LL' approach as I see it:
  • Any threat group will easily adapt to LL TTPs, knowing how to exploit the FF unwillingness to engage and in the full knowledge that at most they will suffer temporary pain if they push the boundaries.

    The willingness of the soldier to engage is greatly lowered and the training burden for LL necessitates reduced training for the conventional 'seek out kill and capture' missions.

    As raised above, we get into the realm of 'bad strategy' by expecting a military force to achieve objectives with no fallout. If their is minimal consideration being given as to consequences of such undertakings, military forces are being set-up for failure when something goes wrong and people are killed.

In mind of the above, I still see huge benefit to be gained from deploying LL. Being able to clear an area of people through an area-denial system that causes solely discomfort is hugely beneficial, as is the ability to engage someone with a taser in the knowledge that they will survive after a few seconds of massive pain (I'm sure any infantry commander could imagine the utility of the new taser shells able to be deployed from a standard 12ga pump-action shotgun in any form of stability operation).

I'm also keeping in mind the fact that the Brits have maintained a healthy balance over their Northern Ireland experience in stability ops and warfighting - they were able to conduct riot drills and deal with civil disobedience while simultaneously raising forces able to retake the Falklands and Kuwait.

Has the dynamics changed, however? Is the presence of a LL capability going to be damaging to an army in the long run, or can it be properly integrated without undue harm?

Knowing that there is a strong LE crowd here in addition to the green skins, I'm very interested in what the best practices with regards to an army LL capability may be.
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Old 05-14-2010   #2
Chris jM
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As a post-script to the above, here are the links for the Taser capability.

The Taser XREP 12ga shell: http://www.taser.com/pages/VideoDetails.aspx?videoid=97

And for the truly sadistic and twisted amongst us, the Taser Claymore-equivalent (known as the Shockwave):
http://www.taser.com/pages/VideoDetails.aspx?videoid=96
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Old 05-14-2010   #3
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Ah, the old if some of something is good then a lot of it must be better. Some LL would certainly be a good thing, especially where crowd control is an issue. But the idea that we can wholesale replace our lethal capability with LL is frightening to me. Never mind the issue of bringing a Taser to a gun fight, it foments the wrong sort of mindset for military. Circumstances have forced our military to perform policing tasks and we have done our best but we are not, nor should we be, a police force. If you don't have a hammer then you can use a big rock to hammer a nail in and it will work to some extent but that does not mean you should be trying to fashion an ergonomic handle for you rock or grind it down to make it more efficient. You just use the rock as well as you can for as long as you have to until you can get a proper hammer.
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Old 05-15-2010   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Uboat509 View Post
Ah, the old if some of something is good then a lot of it must be better. Some LL would certainly be a good thing, especially where crowd control is an issue. But the idea that we can wholesale replace our lethal capability with LL is frightening to me. Never mind the issue of bringing a Taser to a gun fight, it foments the wrong sort of mindset for military. Circumstances have forced our military to perform policing tasks and we have done our best but we are not, nor should we be, a police force. If you don't have a hammer then you can use a big rock to hammer a nail in and it will work to some extent but that does not mean you should be trying to fashion an ergonomic handle for you rock or grind it down to make it more efficient. You just use the rock as well as you can for as long as you have to until you can get a proper hammer.
I agree with you, but the real world isn't ideal and a lot of irregular conflicts require a military to maintain stability and security in the absence of police. Thus, like it or not, soldiers of developed nations will find themselves facing riots, demonstrators and other threats that jeopardize one's mission. If it can't be ignored it has to be dealt with - I think this is a common trend faced by most soldiers in defence of empire, from Roman days through to modernity.

Is lethal force suffice, or do we need to integrate LL capabilities and TTPs? I think we do, but fail to see how it can be integrated without doing harm to a force's warfighting abilities.

For the sake of argument, one option could be to create a specialist 'Less Lethal' platoon within a Combat Team when involved in a stability op. Set them up like para-military police, and use them as the centre of excellence for countering riots, deploying dogs/tasers/CS/etc etc. They would be well suited to a number of tasks tying down conventional infantry platoons who would be better off actively patrolling - tasks such as VCPs, base security, key point protection, etc. I'm not completely comfortable with this option but it does seem preferable to the master-of-all-trades model.
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Old 02-07-2012   #5
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17 min TED talk

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Pepper spray and tasers are in increasing use by both police and military, and more exotic non-lethal weapons such as heat rays are in the works. At TEDxCanberra, ethicist Stephen Coleman explores the unexpected consequences of their introduction and asks some challenging questions.
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