Stability Operations: The Role of Non-Lethal Weapons

  • Colonel Robert A. Davel

US forces remain increasingly engaged in stability operations throughout the world. Achieving the level of operational adaptability needed to perform these operations requires the Army to complement its traditional lethal capabilities with Non-Lethal Weapons (NLW). NLW enable U.S. forces to achieve strategic objectives while minimizing collateral damage both inside and out of mega-populated urban centers – such as harming non-combatants, destroying critical infrastructure, and poisoning the environment. The use of NLW is essential to stability operations. Accordingly, the DoD should develop NLW capabilities to enhance full spectrum operations. In an era of austere budgets, NLW must be affordable, effective, and suitable. NLW must provide feasible support to all services, regardless of the service’s mission set and personnel. The DoD must incorporate NLW and synchronize efforts to meet our strategic and operational challenges for all forces 2025 and beyond. This SRP describes tactical, operational, and strategic applications of non-lethal weapons. It concludes with recommendations for the military’s employment of non-lethal weapons in full spectrum operations.