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Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Paradox of Nonlethal Weapons

Fritz Allhoff
Law and Bioethics Blog
Originally published March 10, 2016

Here are two excerpts:

These are all examples of lethal weapons. Importantly, though, there are myriad restrictions on the use of nonlethal weapons as well. And this gives rise to what I’ll call the “paradox of nonlethal weapons.” The paradox is simply that, sometimes, international law allows soldiers to kill, but not to disable. Or, in other words, some nonlethal weapons may be prohibited, while, at the same time, some lethal weaponry is not. As Donald Rumsfeld put it, “in many instances, our forces are allowed to shoot somebody and kill them, but they’re not allowed to use a nonlethal riot control agent.”


Regardless of the specific technologies, though, the general question is this: why should there be limits on nonlethal weapons at the same time that lethal weapons are allowed? This leads to the curious—and perhaps perverse—outcome that enemy combatants can be killed, but not even temporarily disabled.

The article is here.