Military forces are finding themselves in a wide range of situations short of armed combat for which their weapons may be inappropriate. There must be options between verbal warnings and deadly force.
It foretold the future. One night in Somalia, an armed mob approached a defensive position manned by U.S. Marines. Hoping to avoid a lethal exchange, a Marine used a low-powered laser to "light up" an individual in the center of the mob. Seeing the bright red light on the man's chest, the mob ran off and left the targeted Somali standing alone.1
The incident reflects the chaos and unrest forward deployed naval forces increasingly will face in the emerging security environment. It also reflects the nonlethal capabilities that will be required to meet these more likely contingencies. The complexity of nonlethal technologies, however, poses unprecedented challenges. It requires us to rethink not only how we use force but also the research-and-development aspects of non-lethals.