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Future War: Non-Lethal Weapons in Twenty-First-Century Warfare Paperback – November 11, 2000

4.0 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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"Non-lethal weapons" may sound like an oxymoron, or something found only on Alice in Wonderland battlefields. In reality, however, they are important security tools for armies and law enforcement officials (think tasers and tear gas). Author John Alexander describes all the justifications for non-lethal weapons: they come in handy during peacekeeping operations, help combat terrorism, and head off revenge before it is sought. ("They thank you when they wake up and they're not dead," a Las Vegas cop tells Alexander.) The most fascinating parts of Future War, however, are the descriptions of cutting-edge weapons. The sticky foam gun, for example, immobilizes targets by spraying a powerful gluelike adhesive on them. Acoustic blasters issuing low-intensity pulses can cause "perceptual disorientation" among troops. One antivehicle technology called the Silver Shroud "is a ballistically deployed polymer film that literally wraps up a targeted vehicle." A set of accompanying photographs--illustrations are one of Future War's attractions--shows a car becoming enveloped in a sheet of aluminum foil. Perhaps the most bizarre non-lethal weapon in this fascinating book involves scattering pheromones (a chemical substance that evokes sexual responses in members of the same species) on an area to make it uninhabitable. Writes Alexander, "Imagine trying to sleep or work in an area that is attracting every ant, cockroach, or spider from miles around." No thanks: better to lose a battle than fight that kind of enemy. And that's exactly the point. --John J. Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In a thoughtful examination of the future of military doctrine, Alexander takes a hard look at what options might be available to the American military in a world in which the rules of warfare have changed. Non-lethal weapons, he argues, will become more important for both political and practical reasons. Americans have grown increasingly aware of and sensitive to all casualties on any side in even the most just wars. At the same time, the armed forces increasingly are expected to play a constabulary rather than a military role (as in Bosnia and Haiti). Alexander, a retired U.S. Army colonel who was involved in research on non-lethal weapons at Los Alamos National Laboratory, discusses the use of non-lethal weapons in a series of well-developed near-future operational scenarios in which conventional weapons would be counterproductive. One is a peace support operation. Another involves technological sanctions against a rogue state aimed at disabling its communications systems. A third projects the paralysis, by non-lethal means, of the military capacities of a hostile government. The fourth postulates hostage situations resolved by non-lethal alternatives. Alexander covers technologies ranging from low-kinetic weapons to chemical options, acoustic systems and "conventional" electronic warfare. Such weapons, Alexander demonstrates, are not necessarily humane. They inflict pain; they may permanently disable; they can severely disrupt entire societies. Their sole merit is that they are not designed to kill. Alexander's case for non-lethal weapons may be disputed, but it shouldn't be dismissed.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (November 11, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312267398
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312267391
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,951,725 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
John Alexander is an insider who knows combat and its many modern forms. He also has deliberately decided to advance the ethical response to these new forms of conflict and presents us a convincing array of non-lethal weapons that will reshape not only the defense industry but the law enforcement community.
This book takes the reader to each of the situations imagined in a convincing set of scenarios. Then each of the new non-lethal approaches to the neutralization of the conflict is introduced at its point of greatest impact. The writing is straightforward and at the sametime paints a real picture of the situations visualized.
Ample testimony is attached to this work by respected military thinkers and Alexander does not stretch his case beyond reason to make his point. The documentation is also done in a scholarly fashion.
Tom Clancy sets the stage by raising the edgy spectre of decision-making in the emerging scenarios of conflict. At the same time he accurately describes the new moral center required of soldiers and nations to provide an appropriate response to this now publicly watched phenomenon.
This is a book needed by professionals but not out of the reach of others who want to evaluate how our world will bring itself into the twenty-first century. A good read. Without this work you will be blind-sided by whats just around the corner.
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Format: Hardcover
John Alexander's book is written with concise, clear descriptions of future weapons. These include laser/taser. Chemical systems, computer viruses, non-lethal electromagnetic pulse-power weapons and others. Each citizen reader will find this book informational and vital reading. It helps an individual understand weapons that may be used in the 21st Century.
This reader finds the "issues section" pertaining to future wars especially informative. In the "Strategic Implications" section, a subsection entitled education is of particular note. In this section three national security issues are identified as arising from a substandard education system. One is the limited pool of young men and women from which to recruit as weapons systems are getting more sophisticated to operate. The second education factor of strategic importance is the education of the civilian population. Many citizens are not sufficiently educated to understand the current issues of national security as they are becoming more complex. The third education factor is in weapons development as many of these systems need brainpower to help design or improve them. This reader agrees with the author. The author is giving education a roadmap on areas the future citizen needs in their portfolio of education.
This review is to encourage teachers in classrooms teaching citizenship to add this book to their reading list. For responsible citizens this book is a must read.
Dr. B. Feist-Fite, Educator
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Format: Paperback
Future War would have been a great work of fiction. It's intriguing subject matter and there are some really entertaining scenarios that would keep you turning pages long into the night.

However. If you're in the market for a well-researched, factual account, you should probably look elsewhere, especially if you are, like myself, a relative new-comer to the whole non-lethal weapons field.

Col. Alexander gets some extraordinary things wrong. He uses Ruby Ridge as an example of law enforcement gone wrong and to point up the need for non-lethal alternatives to lethal force. No arguments there. But he must have been thinking of a different Ruby Ridge, because in this one, Kevin Harris doesn't survive. I found that interesting, seeing as how Kevin Harris ended up giving a report to the FBI and getting tried in a court of law after the standoff ended. Reports of his death in this book are greatly exaggerated.

Col. Alexander would also like us to believe that Tazers don't burn. Even in the Nineties, law enforcement was aware that Tazers burn the skin. Several court cases have included evidence of the burn patterns unique to different models of stun guns. He also seems to take great pleasure in claiming that they are never lethal, which is an interesting claim to make about something meant to deliver tens of thousands of volts of electricity into the human body. "Never" is a word that an ostensibly learned man should not have employed to describe such a weapon, even given the state of knowledge in the 90s.

I won't spend this space dissecting the plethora of other errors I've found. I just want to present a caution to anyone incautious enough to buy this book: before getting excited about any one claim, make sure you get the facts from another source. You can't trust this book to be right.
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Format: Paperback
This book has a pretty good introduction to the growing science and technology of non-lethal weapons. It should serve you well if you're looking for something to get you started on building your knowledge of this field. However, you will be disappointed if you are looking for in-depth details on specific systems and technology (these are in most cases still probably classified in any case). The book is still definitely worth reading, though.
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