Nonlethal Security – An Outline

Draft article at 5 February 2015 – (this article is being continually updated)        

(You can print/view  as a formated pdf:                                                                                                                                                          AN OUTLINE OF NONLETHAL SECURITY – Draft 5 February 2015 )

The greatest risk to humanity is still the danger of nuclear war.

There are many ways we can make the world a better place for ourselves, as well as for our children, our grandchildren and their grandchildren. We can reduce poverty, halt climate change, increase biodiversity, improve health and extend education. These are hugely important goals, but they won’t mean anything if there’s a nuclear conflict. Indeed, if there’s a major holocaust none of us might survive and there won’t be any great great grandchildren.

To avoid nuclear war, we need to eliminate all lethal warfare. As long as we continue to settle international disputes by killing each other, there will always be an excuse to use the ultimate killing machine – the nuclear bomb.

We can move away from lethal warfare while still protecting ourselves from aggression by employing ‘nonlethal security’. Nonlethal security means using nonlethal devices rather than lethal weapons to repel and immobilise aggressors.


Today there are:

  • Over 16,000 nuclear warheads across the world, with thousands still on launch-ready alert
  • Ruthless terrorists groups
  • Wars big and small
  • Ever more deadly weapons
  • 500,000 killed by firearms each year
  • A widening gap between rich and poor
  • Accelerating climate change

Nuclear war could easily be triggered by terrorists, by unstable nations or even by the major powers. Any nuclear conflict will be devastating, affecting generations to come. A major nuclear war could extinguish all of us.

 We have to change.

  We need to:

  • adopt nonlethal technology to protect ourselves from aggressors
  • reverse our culture of lethal war
  • eliminate nuclear weapons.

 A nonlethal approach to international conflict will be a profound change for humanity. After many thousands of years of lethal warfare we will cease to have armies which kill people.

 But the concept is not entirely new – WITHIN nations already we mostly keep law and order without death and injury. BETWEEN nations using nonlethal technology we could keep law and order across the world without killing anyone.

 Nonlethal Security means keeping people safe and maintaining law and order using nonlethal technology. 


What is ‘nonlethal security’?

Very simply ‘nonlethal security’ is keeping people safe and maintaining law and order without killing anyone. Most countries across the world keep law and order inside their borders using nonlethal security. In other words, they have a police force which (usually) tries not to kill or injure anyone.

Between nations, it’s a different story. If two nations become engaged in serious conflict, it’s accepted – and indeed expected – that they will use lethal weapons to try to defeat each other. You could call this approach ‘lethal security’. It’s otherwise known as ‘war’.

If we can use a nonlethal approach to conflict resolution within nations, couldn’t we use the same approach in conflict between nations? Nonlethal security doesn’t mean that you accept defeat. It means that you protect yourself from aggression and immobilise the aggressors, but without killing them.


Why should we avoid killing aggressors? In simple terms because:

•           killing is irreversible – there’s no opportunity for reconciliation

•           very often those killed in warfare are not directly responsible for the conflict

•           killing someone usually causes huge grief among their family and friends

•           when there are deaths in battle there is sorrow and anger. This may persist for generations

  • •                     once killing starts, conflict often escalates making it much harder to achieve peace
  • •                     killing someone without good cause is harmful to the human race.

There are other reasons for avoiding lethal warfare:

  • It does not work

Often nowadays, lethal warfare doesn’t work. It does not resolve conflict. Leaving aside whether they were ‘just’, the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan cost many lives and expended vast material resources. In the end the mighty firepower of the West, employing the latest military technology, was defeated by small arms and home-made bombs.

  • Lethal wars may escalate to nuclear war

Lethal warfare has always been miserable. As military technology has progressed from stone axes, through machine guns and aerial bombing to unmanned killer drones, the efficiency of killing has increased exponentially. The ultimate killing device is the nuclear weapon. A nuclear conflict could very efficiently wipe out the human race. Even a small nuclear war could result in many years of radioactivity, with ongoing pain and genetic damage to the survivors. Continuing on our present path of increasingly lethal warfare will give legitimacy to nuclear weapons. By rejecting lethal warfare, we remove that legitimacy.

  • Lethal warfare will add to the risks of an unstable world

So far, compared to the last century, international conflict has in fact decreased. But as the 21st century progresses our world is beginning to look increasingly less stable. Population growth and environmental damage is putting pressure on water and food resources. Increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from fossil fuels is causing climate change, with rising sea levels and more acidic oceans. These factors are likely to cause competition for resources and major population movements, with an increasing risk of conflict. (At some stage we may be able to halt and reverse global warming by removing carbon from the atmosphere, but this may take time.) Nonlethal security in conflict zones will allow much safer and more humane protection while communities adjust to change.

The two main reasons why we need nonlethal security are the risk of a nuclear war and the damage from non-nuclear war – the kind of war that is going on in various parts of the world as you read this. Let’s look at these two reasons in more detail.


 The most important reason to change our addiction to lethal warfare is that a nuclear war could be catastrophic. There are other good reasons for moving away from lethal warfare. We’ll look at them later. But let’s look first at the danger of nuclear warfare.

At present, nine countries around the world have nuclear weapons.  Altogether, there are more than 16,000 warheads.  Thousands of these are on launch-ready alert.  There’s a significant risk that terrorists might lay hands on these weapons.

Many of our world leaders understand the danger. They’ve made some progress in decreasing the stock of weapons worldwide through a series of non-proliferation treaties. Organisations like the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Global Zero are doing good work in campaigning for the elimination of nuclear weapons.  But it’s all taking time. While any nuclear warheads still exist, the risk of extinction remains.

It may not seem so when you watch the news but we know that over the last forty years armed conflict across the world has diminished. However war still continues, as we’ve recently seen in Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.  There are also some concerning factors which could well increase the risk of more lethal conflict in the future. These include:

  • climate change
  • a rise in educated but unemployed youth
  • the growing divide between the haves and the have-nots.

All too often a minor conflict can escalate into a war. A minor war can develop into a major war and a major war into a nuclear war.

At present, most of the nations that have nuclear weapons seem unlikely to use them, but this could change very quickly. As we’ve noted, while the weapons exist there’s the chance that they could be stolen by terrorists. Very few people want a nuclear war. However, when your nation is in extreme danger it may be very tempting to use a nuclear weapon if one is available.

There’s also the danger of accidental use. There have been several close calls in the last few decades. For example, in 1979 missile bases in the USA were fully cleared to launch a nuclear strike on the USSR. Fortunately at the last moment it was discovered that a training tape, simulating nuclear attack, had been wrongly loaded into a computer.

In 1995 Russian bases detected a rocket launch from an island off the coast of Norway. The launch was for a scientific investigation of the Northern Lights, but a combination of conditions made the Black Brant rocket look like a Trident missile. On both occasions it was realised in time that these were false alarms. But if either event had occurred in different circumstances, for example if there had been international tension, the outcome might have been far less happy.

To sum up: if we can move away from our culture of lethal warfare, we may be able to get rid of these most lethal of weapons – nuclear warheads – and so remove the temptation to use them.

The Results of a Nuclear War

It’s nearly seventy years since the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 – the first and – so far – the only time that nuclear weapons have been used on humans. Unfortunately the communal consciousness of the horror of those events has faded over time.  It’s worth reminding ourselves just what occurred.

By today’s standards the bombs were very small (16-21 kilotons) but they killed well over 200,000 people. Many people perished instantaneously. The rest succumbed to injury and radiation sickness over the following days, months and years.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists provides a picture of what would happen if a nuclear warhead landed on Washington DC:

“…the initial core explosion is only the start of the devastation. If, for example, a typical 300 kiloton nuclear bomb were detonated over the Pentagon building in Washington DC, within half a second radiant heat from the fireball would melt asphalt at the Pentagon City shopping centre (about a kilometre away from ground zero), burn paint off walls and melt metal surfaces. The interiors of vehicles and buildings in line of sight of the fireball would burst into flames. A second later, the blast wave and 1000 kmh winds would toss burning cars into the air. The heat and light energy of the bomb would generate an immense fireball and not long after a firestorm would spread out up to seven kilometres from the Pentagon…”

This is the immediate consequence of just one standard nuclear weapon. And further down the line would come radiation sickness and the long-term genetic and environmental damage from the radiation. In a major war debris in the atmosphere could cause dramatic climate change, including a possible ‘nuclear winter’.

In recent years we have experienced the effects of relatively minor radioactivity from the explosions at the nuclear power plants at Chernobyl and Fukushima. Significant numbers of people died. Many more are suffering the long-term effects of radiation, with congenital malformations in their children. Large areas of land have been poisoned with radioactivity and may be locked up for decades.  The cost of trying to clean up the mess has been astronomical.

If this is the outcome of just two civil accidents, you can only imagine the suffering and the costs of an attempted clean-up from just one small nuclear bomb – let alone from a nuclear war.

The risk of a nuclear conflict is certainly the most important motivation for stopping lethal warfare. But there is one other very good reason – the damage caused even by non-nuclear war, the kind of war that has been around as long as human beings and which continues today.


Chimpanzees roam around in gangs and fight and kill other chimps. Chimpanzees are the apes which are most closely related to humans and it seems highly likely that the earliest humans made war on each other in very much the same way.

The earliest recorded history – sculptures and texts – shows that people made war. Since that time there is an unbroken record of warfare with invading armies and waxing and waning empires right up to the present day. As you read this (at least if it’s in the early 21st Century) there is a war going on somewhere on the planet – and quite probably a number of wars.

At present, warfare is part of being human and it’s not pleasant.


War is a very miserable business. First of all it kills people. If you include all the ‘democides’ of the political purges of the likes of Hitler, Stalin and Mao Zedong some 226 million were killed as a result of war in the 20th Century.

But every single death from war is significant. Most of them cause a personal tragedy for a wife or a husband, a father or a mother, a friend or a lover – or all of those. The most obvious and yet so significant fact about death is that it is final. There is no possibility of discussion, of reconciliation or of reparation. Death in old age is often sad but it’s usually acceptable. Not so is untimely death. When that death is a result of deliberate action by other human beings the tragedy is greatly multiplied and the sorrow and anger may persist for generations. The task of resolving the conflict escalates.


Injury can range from a light scratch from shrapnel, to blindness, castration, loss of arms and legs, burns, deafness, brain damage or to any combination of these. War soon loses any lustre in the face of such mutilation. Some war wounds are so terrible that the survivors wish that they had died. It’s known, though not much documented, that some of the survivors of the First World War were so horribly maimed that although they lived on for many years they were never seen in public.

Chemical weapons

Chemical weapons, where they don’t kill, can injure people for life. Many thousands of soldiers in World War One never fully recovered from being gassed. In the Vietnam War, Agent Orange, sprayed by the American forces to defoliate forests, caused long term illness in soldiers and civilians on both sides. This extended through generations in the form of genetic damage to children and horrific birth deformities.

Nervous system damage

War can damage the central nervous system in a range of ways. There’s direct injury from projectiles or shock waves. There’s also the cumulative effect of the flash, the noise and the blast of gunfire which can lead to mental breakdown – known in World War One as ‘shell shock’. The effect of such stimuli, combined with on-going fear and anxiety can be long delayed and emerge years later, long after the war is over, in the form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD affects a significant number of returned combatants. One study found that five years after the Falklands War some half of the British veterans experienced symptoms of PTSD and 22 percent had the full syndrome. Two hundred and fifty six servicemen were killed but it was estimated in 2001 that a hundred more had committed suicide since the end of the war. A recent (2013) estimate of US veterans reported that on average some 22 per day have been killing themselves.

Starvation and disease

Another consequence of war, through the breakdown of infrastructure and services, is starvation and disease. Because of the disruption to food supplies war frequently causes malnutrition, with its long-term consequences for young children. Starvation is not infrequent.

Disease is another outcome of war. Cholera and severe dysentery have often proved fatal.

Damage to infrastructure

As well as killing and injuring people war results in the destruction of material assets – houses, schools, hospitals, factories, roads, bridges, railways, reservoirs and the like. In addition war can destroy landscape and vegetation, as it did in Vietnam from American aerial bombing and the use of herbicides.


Warfare exacts a huge cost on humanity. As well as the human costs – the most important – there is disruption to agriculture, health and education. The cost of troops and munitions is a great drain on a nation’s resources. It’s also a distraction – diverting energy from much needed activity like cleaning up pollution or building social housing.

In summary, warfare is something that we should very much try to avoid.


As long as there has been war, almost certainly people have realised how damaging it is and have sought ways to avoid it. One strategy has been to run away. This might mean abandoning your houses and crops until the enemy has departed, when you then return to pick up the pieces. The departure can be more permanent. You and your tribe move far away into a wilderness where no enemy will come to find you. An opposite strategy is to become so strong and well-armed that no-one will dare to make war on you. But this may not end warfare, because if you become powerful you may well be tempted to invade and attack others.

Over the course of history it has often been thought that the most successful recipe for peace is a balance of power. This is when nations are equally well armed – enough to deter invasion but not powerful enough to overcome other nations. This balance of power has frequently worked well for a while, but inevitably breaks down. For example several nations may form an alliance and gang up to attack a single weaker nation. Alternatively one nation may invent or acquire a new kind of weapon which (sometimes literally) gives them the ‘edge’ over others.

Since the end of World War Two the balance of power between the super powers has so far been maintained, although it’s relied to some extent on the very dangerous nuclear ‘deterrent’. Conventional warfare has still continued despite the efforts of diplomats and peace activists to prevent it.

There’s been some success at preventing wars from breaking out and in halting those that have erupted. Much of this has been from the efforts of the United Nations. This is an imperfect organisation – hampered in part by veto powers in the Security Council – but without the UN there could have been many worse conflicts over the last sixty years.

It seems though, that in spite of these best efforts, war is likely to continue into the immediate future. It will probably only cease when (assuming we survive) we have an effective world parliament.

For the moment, the actions of the UN, of diplomats and of peace activists can contain and reduce warfare. Supporting and complementing these efforts can be a technological initiative – the development of nonlethal security. Let’s now look in more detail at how nonlethal security might work.


How does nonlethal security work? How can we protect ourselves against physical aggression without killing or injuring the aggressors? How can we immobilise the aggressors so that they won’t keep trying to attack us?

Nonlethal security works just like lethal security (otherwise known as conventional warfare). To wage lethal war successfully you need the tools (ie weapons) you need the right people(combatants) who are trained to use those weapons and you need the right methods (strategies and tactics). Similarly, with nonlethal security you need the right tools (nonlethal technology), you need the right people trained to use that nonlethal technology and you need the right strategies and tactics. Let’s look at each of these elements.

At present, when at war we use passive protection such as flak jackets, armour plate and fortifications (including fences, earthworks and walls). We also try to stop opponents from attacking us by using lethal weapons to kill and injure them. With nonlethal security we can make good use of passive protection, but we also need active protection to immobilise our opponents and their weapons.

Active nonlethal security

The tools of lethal warfare are weapons – devices which injure and kill – guns, bombs and missiles and less commonly now knives, spears and arrows. NLS will employ very similar devices except that the lethal ‘warheads’ will be replaced by nonlethal technology which will incapacitate the opponents but not kill or seriously injure them.

The equipment that delivers the nonlethal payload may remain much the same – the guns and the missiles and the vehicles (tanks, strike fighters, helicopters and naval vessels).

Do we yet have any nonlethal security technology? Yes we do. These employ various technologies and include stun-guns (such as Tasers). They are still very basic and the range is limited. But research and development by various agencies is producing a growing number of devices. A major agency for nonlethal security is the US Army’s Non-lethal Weapons Program which supports a variety of nonlethal devices including stun guns, optical distracters, stinger rounds, sponge grenades, active denial systems (using millimetre waves) and running gear entanglement systems.

There are a number of new devices under development. The agency also supports training in the use of nonlethal technology. See .

If we all agreed that nonlethal security had a high priority we would very soon find the money to improve the technology. Currently, hundreds of billions of dollars are spent researching and developing lethal weapons. Just a fraction of that amount would provide a huge boost to the research and development of nonlethal security devices.

Problems with current devices

When the idea of ‘nonlethal weapons’ began to become widespread (about the 1970s) there was an initial flush of enthusiasm (as often happens with new technology). Inevitably potential problems began to emerge.

For example, they might:

  • •                     when used inappropriately be lethal
  • •                     not be as effective as the lethal technologies they oppose
  • •                     not deter ruthless opponents
  • •                     be used to extend rather than replace conventional armaments
  • •                     be used to subdue civilian populations
  • •                     because they do not kill people not ‘teach the enemy a lesson’
  • •                     prolong wars unnecessarily and cause more suffering than      conventional  weapons would have done.
  • •                     distract from the aim of eliminating war altogether
  • •                     result in a stalemate
  • •                     replace one kind of violence with another.

All these concerns are legitimate. Military agencies now developing nonlethal security are very aware of them. Here are some suggestions for addressing the problems:

  • •         when used inappropriately be lethal

This will require better design and good training

  • •         not as effective as the lethal technologies they oppose

This is a major concern. Initially, non-lethal warfare might be a luxury only for the powerful to be used in situations where they had overwhelming force and no risk of injury.

  • •         not deter ruthless opponents

The possibility of being ‘immobilised’ might not seem as much of a threat as of being killed and fanatical combatants might well take that risk. If it became known that surrender would result in much lesser penalties than for resistance (ie an opponent that had to be immobilised would be fined and incarcerated rather than briefly detained) effective nonlethal security could be a substantial deterrent.

  • •         be used to extend rather than replace conventional armaments

At present this is a very valid concern. At least one military nonlethal agency has stated explicitly that nonlethal weapons will never replace lethal force. There will of course be some gain if death and injury in warfare is reduced but the ultimate aim must be to eliminate all damage.

  • •         be used to subdue civilian populations

Unfortunately, nonlethal devices have from time to time been employed to oppress civilians. These abuses include unnecessarily violent crowd control and torture. The abuses need to be eradicated, but they are not a reason for rejecting the technology as a whole.

  • •         because they do not kill people not ‘teach the enemy a lesson’

In some situations it will be appropriate to penalise aggressors. However, this should not include execution. Many soldiers involved in aggressive combat are not there from personal choice. They may profoundly disagree with the activity but have been unwillingly conscripted by their political leaders. To be killed in such a situation is profoundly unjust.

  • •         prolong wars unnecessarily and cause more suffering than conventional weapons

At present we could envisage situations where a quick lethal intervention might quickly restore peace and justice, while nonlethal action might allow injustice to persist for years. This kind of argument was employed in the invasion of Iraq but the result was hundreds of thousands of casualties and ongoing conflict. If there had been a better post invasion strategy there might have been a happier outcome, but any lethal conflict is risky.

  • •         distract from the aim of eliminating war altogether

The initial objective of nonlethal security is to reduce the damage of war. It could though pave the way to lasting peace. If no one is killed or injured it becomes much easier to negotiate peace and to establish a less violent culture.

  • •         result in a stalemate

Nonlethal resolution of a conflict might take longer than a quick lethal war, but delay is better than death and time will usually reveal a way to resolve and conciliate.

  • •         replace one kind of violence with another

Some peace activist have argued that nonlethal security may just allow state owned violence and oppression to continue, even if no-one is ‘physically’ killed or injured. The sole aim, they say, should be to eliminate all violence. In the long run this is a worthy objective but the realities of human biology and culture dictate that groups of humans will continue to attempt lethal violence on other humans in the immediate future. If you are dead you have no chance of achieving justice. While you live the opportunity for change remains.


Tomorrow’s nonlethal ‘troops’ will have many qualities similar to today’s military. The main difference will be that they will not be expected to kill an enemy.

There will be an interim period when mostly nonlethal military will have to be prepared to use lethal force as a last resort (just a civilian police officers have the same expectation to a greater or lesser extent according to their country).

Training of nonlethal military will be very similar to today’s training with an emphasis on physical fitness and discipline. Since troops will initially need to remain skilled in lethal approaches the training at this time will be very similar to that of today’s military, with training in nonlethal approaches added to the current syllabus. As NLS approaches began to be accepted, the proportion of lethal training will reduce.

For a while – and perhaps into the foreseeable future, the military might need to retain small core units of people trained in the use of lethal weaponry – just in case some ruthless extremist insurgents emerged who could not be contained by nonlethal methods.

Military academies would change their whole focus to nonlethal security. The titles could be changed (‘The Royal National Security Academy Duntroon’  ‘The Royal National Security Academy Sandhurst’ ‘The United States Security Academy at West Point’).


Again, the strategy and tactics in nonlethal security would to some extent be the same as for conventional warfare – manoeuvring encirclement, ‘attack’, retreat and so on. On the other hand some methods will be totally different. People and weapons would be immobilised rather than killed and destroyed. Tomorrow’s nonlethal military will develop and test a variety of new tactics and strategies for overcoming their opponents without death and injury.  Nonlethal security forces will be trained in these new methods.

It’s very early days for military strategy using a nonlethal approach. So far it has been employed on a piecemeal basis, for example by US troops in Kosovo in April 2000 to move a crowd from a landing zone. The Vehicle Lightweight Arresting device has been used successfully in Haiti, Iraq and Afghanistan.

These incidents have mostly involved civilian opponents and certainly not taken place in contact with aggressive lethally armed troops.

The way in which nonlethal tactics will be used to contain lethal and aggressive combatants will of course depend on the technology available and be developed through experience. It will be very important that nonlethal force be successful against lethal force. A lethal force can lose a battle against nonlethal troops without suffering death or injury. The reverse i.e. the defeat of nonlethal troops without death or damage – would not be true.

In the immediate future therefore a nonlethal approach should only be used when there would be a very high likelihood of success. An example of this would be intervention by an overwhelming United Nations contingent of peacekeepers against lightly armed insurgents.

Powers that wished to continue with lethal arms would be likely to try to develop weapons that overcame nonlethal protection.

A situation where two forces confronted each, both armed only with nonlethal devices might produce some bizarre outcomes. The larger force, which had the power to incapacitate the greater number of combatants, would be the likely victor.

In essence such a potential scenario must remind us that nonlethal security would be part of a world of policing operations rather than of ‘battles’.

The nuts and bolts of how nonlethal operations would be conducted is obviously complex and speculative, but we should not let this fact discourage us from developing nonlethal approaches. Changing from traditional ways of generating energy by burning fossil fuels has been a complicated process and there are still many obstacles, but there has already been very substantial progress. For example who would have predicted 40 years ago that a country like Germany would now be generating some 30% of its energy through sustainable technology?

If the goals are agreed, humans have proved very competent at achieving the means.

A new approach to war

In a broader context, as well as the new nonlethal technology we’ll also need a completely new approach to maintaining international security, involving both governments and military leaders.

It will require a radical change in our military. At present, once a conflict is under way, military forces focus on killing aggressors, as well as on destroying their weapons. The new approach will oblige defence forces to resist aggression but do everything possible to minimise killing or injuring the opposing forces (and of course, non-combatants).

It will be a major reversal of current military tradition and strategy and it will not happen overnight. At present, society regards war almost like a game. It is a contest in which there are winners and losers and there are scores of the number of enemy killed or of aircraft destroyed. This is of course no accident. A major function of sport was originally as training for hunting and war. Fortunately, sport has evolved into something of a replacement for war – a means of diverting lethal drives into healthy and satisfying nonlethal activities.

Nonlethal security, in contrast, will not be a ‘game’ with winners and losers. It will be more like intelligent policing, where criminal activity is where possible anticipated and prevented. When criminals are confronted, they are constrained with a minimum of injury. Those charged with crimes are tried and if convicted sentenced to fines or imprisonment.

The aim of a nonlethal security force when facing lethally armed aggressors would be to halt and constrain the aggressors without death or injury. The events would then be treated as a possible crime. Leaders of the invading force would be given a fair trial. If convicted of an offence (for example ‘unwarranted aggression’) they would be subject to penalties (such as fines or imprisonment). It’s possible of course that they would not be found guilty of any offence, for example if they had been reacting to intolerable and illegal pressures themselves. In such a case these factors would be examined further and resolution sought.

Currently, soldiers captured in a conventional war are not regarded as criminals. This is reasonable because war between nations is at present regarded as being ‘legal’. Prisoners of war are supposed to be treated humanely and released when the conflict is over. For a while military captured by nonlethal security forces would be treated humanely without punishment. We can though envisage a time when using lethal weapons had been accepted worldwide as being illegal. Combatants who used lethal weapons would then – when captured – be subject to penalties such as fines or imprisonment.

Political change

There will also need to be a dramatic cultural change in our political leaders. In the event of a serious confrontation between nations, the first question will have to be not ‘how can we destroy the forces of our enemy?’ but ‘how can we halt and constrain our opponents without damaging them?’


Moving the world to nonlethal conflict resolution will be a complex and lengthy process. A major issue will be the fact that not everyone will move to nonlethal protection at the same time. For a while at least lethal weapons may be more effective than nonlethal devices.

No military commander would wish to risk harm to those under their command or to the community they are protecting. Until they were absolutely certain that their nonlethal security devices were totally effective they would want to carry effective lethal weapons as a back-up.


Peace and Justice

We could quite easily envisage a world which observed NLS – there was no killing or injury – but which was not a world with justice and freedom ie properly at peace. Large segments of the population could be oppressed or incarcerated. Order would be maintained with efficient but oppressive nonlethal technology.

This is not a world that we would wish for and we would need to do everything possible to avoid and prevent such as situation. The only thing that we might say is that at least everyone would be alive – and ‘while there is life there is hope’. This should not negate the idea of NLS. At present we have plenty of parts of the world where there is killing and oppression.


We need to change the name ‘military’. Perhaps it could just be changed to ‘security’ with the understanding that the operation would be nonlethal. At present, security forces are normally lethally armed.


In universities departments of peace studies would be dramatically increased. Some universities would have a Faculty of Peace and Security Studies.


Defence would change to Ministry of National Security.


Pilotless aircraft, drones, are becoming very widespread. Among the earliest pilotless bombers were the Second World War V 1 ‘doodlebugs’. The recent generation of drones were initially unarmed and used for observation. Lethally armed drones are now widespread. Their use raises a number of ethical issues.

We can however envisage drones with nonlethal payload. So long as they did not cause death or injury they could be a very useful addition to the nonlethal armoury.

Police firearms

Many police forces around the world still carry firearms – some like the UK and NZ police do not. As a nonlethal security approach spreads internationally, we might well expect to see nonlethal security taken up by more domestic police forces.

Sport shooting

Nothing intrinsically wrong with sport shooting. It is becoming progressively less popular. Grouse shooting… simulation could replace it. Feral animal control.

Sport as displacement

The origins of sport lie in part at least in training for hunting. Many other animals besides humans engage in ‘play’. For example lion cubs play at fighting with both their siblings and with adults. This develops their strength, their reflexes and their overall skills.

Many human sports have links to hunting, for example ball games develop skills in throwing what originally would have been rocks. These hunting skills would have been transferable to warfare.

Sport has another useful function in channelling natural aggressive drives in young people when warfare is not necessary. It’s well known that gangs of young men when bored may go and seek a fight.

Armaments industry

The armaments industry would need to be shown that there was good profit in NLS and also that lethal weaponry was not going to make a profit.

Culture of Peace

As progress began to be made in developing nonlethal approaches, we could expect a change in culture. The military would be perceived as defenders and ‘warriors’ but not killers.


It will take time to develop NLS. Here is a possible schedule:

  • ·         Raise awareness of NLS
  • ·         Extend development by the military
  • ·         Extend trials in the field
  • ·         UN Peacekeepers adopt NLS
  • ·         NLS made major part of Defence Academy syllabus
  • ·         NLS approach built into international treaties
  • ·         Draft code of nonlethal engagement
  • ·         Further development of NLS across the world.


We may feel that there are others who are much better placed to find solutions than we are. In fact the world can be changed by quite small groups of people, or even by individuals (if those individuals are reflecting a feeling shared by others).

  • There are large numbers of people already active in promoting peace in various ways. We can add to that support and alert peace activists to the concept of nonlethal security.
  • Discuss the issue with our friends and colleagues and (if the opportunity arises) in the media.
  • Work locally Start in our own backyard. Almost everyone who wants to can have an influence on her or his own local government.  Lobby for gun-free areas (for example that the local council does not engage armed security guards)
  • Urge our schools and education authorities to introduce peace education and related subjects which include the concept of nonlethal security.
  • Campaign for good firearm control and for the replacement of the guns carried by police and security guards with non-lethal weapons. Working at a local level will be very powerful. If we want to widen our activities:
  • We can lobby our regional and then national politicians to initiate reform of the defence forces so that they take a nonlethal approach to defence.
  • On the international level we can campaign for the United Nations to move to nonlethal protection for its peacekeepers.


In summary, here are some of the steps that we, as a world community, need to take to promote nonlethal security:

  • Support and promote peace organisations and activities.
  • Phase out the research and development of lethal weapons
  • Invest heavily in the development of effective nonlethal security technology
  • Move the United Nations peacekeeping forces to a nonlethal security approach
  • Develop a charter of nonlethal international security to be ratified by all nations
  • Reduce the stock of small-arms around the world
  • Move police to nonlethal protection
  • Promote activities which support world peace, such as improving human rights, reducing poverty, halting global warming, reducing inequity, improving health and education, providing full employment
  • Change from laws which are driven by emotion rather than rationality – eg unnecessary incarceration
  • Eliminate nuclear weapons
  • Establish a World Parliament  ————————————————— THIS OUTLINE IS A WORK IN PROGRESS AND IS BEING PROGRESSIVELY UPDATED 

    (Version at 5 February 2015)




Freedom from death and injury in war is a basic human right.