Set Phasers on... DAZZLE!!
Well, it seems that we're doing in Iraq what we do best - adapting to new conditions with technology. Take this new laser contraption the checkpoint guys will soon have in their arsenal.
The U.S. military is deploying a laser device in Iraq that would temporarily blind drivers who fail to heed warnings at checkpoints, in an attempt to stem shootings of innocent Iraqis.
The pilot project will equip thousands of M-4 rifles with the 10 1/2 -inch-long weapon, which projects an intense beam of green light to "dazzle" the vision of oncoming drivers.
"I think this is going to make a huge difference in avoiding these confrontations," said Army Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the commander in charge of day-to-day operations in Iraq. "I promise you no one — no one — will be able to ignore it."
Naturally, no article on a new weapons system (even a non-lethal one) would be complete without the requisite bitching about the Geneva Conventions.
A decade ago, the experimental use of tactical laser devices by U.S. Marines in Somalia was curtailed at the last minute for "humane reasons," according to the New York-based Human Rights Watch, which called their use "repugnant to the public conscience" in a 1995 report.
The Pentagon has canceled several programs for the stronger "blinding" lasers, in adherence to the Geneva protocol, according to Human Rights Watch. But the group has said that even less powerful "dazzling" lasers, similar to the one to be deployed in Iraq, can cause permanent damage.
And this not a theoretical topic, innocent Iraqis are dying regularly because they aren't paying attention or don't understand the soldiers' injunction to STOP. And you put one of our soldiers in the position of making a split second decision, with a car barrelling down on him who's ignored his warnings, of whether or not to shoot. Is Human Rights Watch trying to tell us that we shouldn't be using a system which may cause retinal damage instead of a system which will assuredly kill?
Of course not. But that's not HRW's agenda. HRW's deeper assumption is that U.S. soldiers should not be in Iraq at all, and therefore, anything that makes that reality more palatable (such as a decrease in accidental deaths at checkpoints) is to be resisted.
More interesting is that this new system is the first in what will most assuredly be a slew of weapons systems developed to take into account new strategic realities.
On a tactical level, a bullet works just as well. You've shot the driver of the oncoming vehicle, doing your force protection job.
But you may achieve your tactical objectives while losing the larger strategic battle, which now takes place in the realm of the moral high ground and in which the Enemy deftly uses our own media against us.
Every uneccessary Iraqi death retards our ability to achieve victory. The thinking behind this of course goes back to Mao and his 8 Points of Attention, but in today's battlefield environment, where the media is set to pounce upon every (presumed) atrocity, the tightrope we walk is ever thinner.
Our job is to thicken the tightrope.
Technological solutions such as this new laser give our forces more flexibility in the battlespace to achieve their tactical objective without retarding strategic victory.
Kid Various has always said that the invention of the standard sci-fi powered battle armor will not stem from the desire to build a super warrior with superior capabilities. Rather, such a program will be developed in order to allow soldiers the flexibility to achieve tactical goals in an urban environment with a minimum of casualties - either their own, or (strangely in our world) the Enemy's.
Man Portable Armor will be developed for the same reason armored vehicles were orginally developed, to allow for mobility while guarding against uneccessary casualties. Tanks and Infantry fighting vehicles are great, but they're difficult to use in an urban environment, and you certainly can't enter building with them.
What you want is the ability to move into areas occupied by the Enemy, with time enough to make clear decisions about the amount of force required. Ideally, if the Enemy is holed up in an apartment building, you want to go in there and drag him out alive, while avoiding casualties among civilians and your own troops. That's not really possible now where when our troops have to clear a building, the proper response to an unexpected threat is to shoot.
Man Portable Armor could give our forces the critical few seconds they need to decide what level of force is required. And that's why it will eventually be developed.