would produce aural pain, equilibrium problems, or other profound effects seemsunachievable at ranges above about 50 m for meter-size sources. Inside buildings, thesituation is different, especially if resonances can be exploited.Acoustic weapons would have much less drastic consequences than the recentlybanned blinding laser weapons. On the other hand, there is a greater potential of indis-criminate effects due to beam spreading. Because in many situations acoustic weaponswould not offer radically improved options for military or police, in particular if oppo-nents use ear protection, there may be a chance for preventive limits. Since acousticweapons could come in many forms for different applications, and because blast weap-ons are widely used, such limits would have to be graduated and detailed.
Acoustic Weapons as Part of “Non-lethal” Weapons
Since the early 1990s there has been an increasing interest - mainly in theU.S. - in so-called non-lethal weapons (NLW) which are intended to disableequipment or personnel while avoiding or minimizing permanent and severedamage to humans. NLW are thought to provide new, additional options toapply military force under post-Cold War conditions, but they may also beused in a police context.
Whereas some foresee a military revolution and “warwithout death,”
most others predict or prescribe that NLW would just aug-ment lethal weapons, arguing that in actual war both types would be used insequence or in parallel.
However, there may be situations other than warwhen having more options of applying force below the threshold of killingcould help to prevent or reduce deaths, e.g., in a police context (riots, hostage-taking) or in peace-keeping operations. A range of diverse technologies hasbeen mentioned, among them lasers for blinding, high-power microwavepulses, caustic chemicals, microbes, glues, lubricants, and computer viruses.Whereas at present it is mainly the U.S. that push research and develop-ment of these technologies,
a new qualitative arms race in several areascould ensue if they were deployed. There is also a danger of proliferation,which may “backﬁre” if such new weapons are used by opponents or terror-ists.
Some concepts would ﬂatly violate existing disarmament treaties, e.g.,using microbes as anti-matériel weapons.
Others could endanger or violatenorms of the international humanitarian law.
Thus, there are good reasons totake critical looks at NLW before agreeing to their development and deploy-ment.Such critical analyses have to consider scientiﬁc-technical, military-opera-tional, and political aspects. To some extent, the latter two aspects depend onthe ﬁrst one. Well-founded analyses of the working of NLW, the transport/