Benign intervention in low intensity conflict

The slaughter in Syria and devastation of other countries in the region brings to mind the time when America’s defence policy appeared to be developing truly civilised aims:

Following a survey of the cycle of destruction, development and destruction in Sudan, Mozambique and Ethiopia many years ago, a Civilisation 3000 colleague pondered . . .

She began to consider ways of stopping violent people in their tracks, just as sick or crazed animals can be sedated by vets.  Dr Polly Taylor of the British Animal Trust (right) was consulted and said that dart pistols and projectiles which use various anaesthetics could be adapted effectively, for this purpose, given research funding. To remove risk of incorrect dosage, only substances which had an antidote – an ‘antagonist’ – should be used.

A year later, in 1992, having enrolled on Bradford University’s MA course (Peace Studies), our colleague approached Professor Malcolm Dando with this theory, getting his approval for it as a novel –and amusing – dissertation subject.   

The Pentagon’s Non-lethal Project: America would lead the world in avoiding ‘collateral damage’

Six months the subject was no longer theoretical: BBC2’s ‘Newsnight’ revealed that the Pentagon had a Non-lethal Project and several technologies shown. One interview was with Dr Janet Morris, then working with the US Department of Defense, who later asked our colleague to help her to set up a centre in UK.

Dr Morris (left) stressed that the motive for undertaking this work were good: America would lead the world in avoiding ‘collateral damage’.

Dr John Alexander of the Los Alamos NL project expressed the feelings fundamental to the proposal made in this dissertation:

“You want the population to be friendly when you come out of it, quite frankly, and killing them does not do that.”


An explanatory diagram in a 1998 paper on the subject by General Martin R. Steele, of the US Marine Corps

In addition to research based on the university’s resources, our colleague visited Russian exhibition ‘Conversion ‘93’ which was informative on several counts – especially relevant was Russia’s work on robotics. She met Aleksey Skepco of the State Optical Institute which had been working on laser weapons with the US even during the Cold War.

Dr John Gilbert, former Defence Minister, gave an address in Parliament on the subject. He later attended and spoke at a meeting organised by our colleague at Barnes Close near Bromsgrove.


Her MA dissertation on Benign Intervention at Bradford University’s  Department of Peace Studies was completed. The three stages of Benign Intervention were:

  1. The halting of armed conflict by an impartial UN non-lethal, non-injurious force – UNBIF.
  2. Recovery and information gathering.
  3. Long-term economic and social peacebuilding.

A hidden agenda exposed – Part 2

Shortly afterwards she received copies of Dr Morris’s addresses to the general public, the military and political audiences. Though the public were still being given the messages outlined above, those addressed to politicians and the military, designed to encourage R&D funding, advocated the use of blinding lasers and microwave weapons by armed soldiers in order to render their opponents defenceless and proceed with impunity.

Our colleague wrote to say that this was totally unacceptable. She did not want to proceed at PhD due to the deception practised so gave her material and the Newsnight video sent by presenter David Shukman  to Dr Paul Rogers and her tutor, Dr Nick Lewer, who set up a research programme at the University of Bradford which monitors the use of these weapons and the relevant international legislation.

Rowntree funded a book on the subject of Non-Lethal Weapons and the final chapter outlined the Benign Intervention proposal. It was written by her tutor and her colleague Dr Steve Schofield.


The concept interested many. See the correspondence list here.


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