Small Wars Journal

How the Red Cross Killed Non-Lethal Weapons

How the Red Cross Killed Non-Lethal Weapons by Gary Anderson, Wall Street Journal

‘We had to destroy the village to save it.” That quote from an American officer during the Vietnam War was used to great effect by the antiwar movement of the 1960s. It comes to mind after the recent battle for Ramadi in which the Iraqi army and its associated militias, backed by American air power, virtually leveled the city to liberate it from Islamic State, or ISIS. Ramadi was held by fewer than 300 ISIS fighters, but retaking it involved a massive assault by thousands of Iraqi security forces.

Now a bloody battle to retake Fallujah from ISIS is under way, and the tens of thousands of men, women and children unlucky enough to be trapped are being used as human shields. Meanwhile, those lucky enough to escape are overwhelming aid agencies. There are better ways to conduct urban combat than to flatten entire city blocks, but they won’t be employed in Iraq…

Ironically, human-rights organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross and Human Rights Watch that today decry the plight of civilians in Fallujah are the same groups that argued successfully against deploying advanced non-lethal weapons like VMADS. It is true, as the critics maintained, that in the wrong hands such weapons could be used to suppress peaceful demonstrations or even be set to kill. We in the military tried on a number of occasions to work with the human-rights community to develop law-of-war protocols that would allow for responsible use of such weapons and to develop controls that would prevent them from falling into the wrong hands.

Regrettably, the human-rights groups were intransigent, and most of us in the military concluded that we shouldn’t spend scarce dollars on systems that would never be used…

Read on.