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Civilian casualties – do we really care? The failure of the revolution in military affairs of non-lethal weapons in the U.S., Russia and Israel

Fridman, O. (2016) Civilian casualties – do we really care? The failure of the revolution in military affairs of non-lethal weapons in the U.S., Russia and Israel. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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Causing civilian casualties during military operations has become a much politicised topic in international relations since the Second World War. Since the last decade of the 20th century, different scholars and political analysts have claimed that human life is valued more and more among the general international community. This argument has led many researchers to assume that democratic culture and traditions, modern ethical and moral issues have created a desire for a world without war or, at least, a demand that contemporary armed conflicts, if unavoidable, at least have to be far less lethal forcing the military to seek new technologies that can minimise civilian casualties and collateral damage. Non-Lethal Weapons (NLW) – weapons that are intended to minimise civilian casualties and collateral damage – are based on the technology that, during the 1990s, was expected to revolutionise the conduct of warfare making it significantly less deadly. The rapid rise of interest in NLW, ignited by the American military twenty five years ago, sparked off an entirely new military, as well as an academic, discourse concerning their potential contribution to military success on the 21st century battlefields. It seems, however, that except for this debate, very little has been done within the military forces themselves. This research suggests that the roots of this situation are much deeper than the simple professional misconduct of the military establishment, or the poor political behaviour of political leaders, who had sent them to fight. Following the story of NLW in the U.S., Russia and Israel this research focuses on the political and cultural aspects that have been supposed to force the military organisations of these countries to adopt new technologies and operational and organisational concepts regarding NLW in an attempt to minimise enemy civilian casualties during their military operations. This research finds that while American, Russian and Israeli national characters are, undoubtedly, products of the unique historical experience of each one of these nations, all of three pay very little regard to foreigners’ lives. Moreover, while it is generally argued that the international political pressure is a crucial factor that leads to the significant reduction of harmed civilians and destroyed civilian infrastructure, the findings of this research suggest that the American, Russian and Israeli governments are well prepared and politically equipped to fend off international criticism. As the analyses of the American, Russian and Israeli cases reveal, the political-military leaderships of these countries have very little external or domestic reasons to minimise enemy civilian casualties through fundamental-revolutionary change in their conduct of war. In other words, this research finds that employment of NLW have failed because the political leadership asks the militaries to reduce the enemy civilian casualties to a politically acceptable level, rather than to the technologically possible minimum; as in the socio-cultural-political context of each country, support for the former appears to be significantly higher than for the latter.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Zaum, D. and Farrell, T.
Thesis/Report Department:Department of Politics and International Relations
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Politics, Economics and International Relations
ID Code:65615


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