Stability and support operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan are characterized by peaceful populations mixing with insurgents. Moreover, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, military deployments to the region underscored the continual need for effective non-lethal capabilities. Every action taken during
these operations was dramatized by the U.S. and international
news media and reported worldwide in near real time.
In this environment, U.S. military operations are severely constricted
when options are limited to only lethal force or withdrawal. Humanitarian
alternatives to lethal force continue to be needed for protecting U.S. interests, personnel,
and property. Moreover, the need for non-lethal augmentation of
conventional military force is expected to increase in the foreseeable
There is a similar sense of urgency within the civilian law enforcement community. Non-lethal/less-lethal technologies and tactics expand the number of minimal force options available to law enforcement when use of deadly force is considered inappropriate. They provide flexibility by allowing police to apply appropriate force with reduced risk of serious injury or fatalities, but in such a manner as to provide protection of the public and effect compliance.
Because law enforcement can employ minimal force options at a lower threshold of danger, police can respond to an evolving public security or safety threat more rapidly. This allows local and national police organizations to retain the initiative and reduce both their own and the public vulnerability. Thus, a robust capability in this area will assist in bringing into balance the conflicting requirements of public order, public protection, and the safety of the police. It will enhance the utility and relevance of appropriate force as a legitimate policy option in a potentially complex and chaotic social environment.
Given the recent increase in global terrorism, the need exists for effective and safe techniques that can deal with belligerent crowds and individuals who exploit innocent bystanders for concealment or groups that seize and hold hostages. Safe and effective methods to temporarily disable hostage takers could negate the necessity of lethal force in some situations.
The growing level of violence associated with growing global urbanization and the War on Terror provide a more immediate sense of urgency for identifying broadly accepted (international) approaches for minimal force options.