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The Third Option.

Rules of Engagement is a film about the court-martial of a Marine Colonel who fires into a mob about to storm the U.S. Embassy in a country in the Middle East. A number of women and children are killed or wounded during this incident. The film is riveting, but from one who knows history, the United States and its embassies have often been the targets of mobs, and the fictional scenario played out in the film offers some food for thought.

The Marine Colonel in the film (very well played by Samuel L. Jackson) is given two very unpalatable options--continue to take casualties from the mob that is firing into the embassy or fire into the mob itself to stop his men from being killed and wounded. He chooses the second option and fires into the mob. When this occurs, the audience goes deathly quiet and one could have heard a pin drop. American troops will not happily fire into mobs of women and children. It is not in their nature.

Given America's enormous technological capability, there is a possibility for a third option--one that is basically nonlethal and keeps casualties on both sides low by using chemical nonlethal weapons.

If you've seen the film, this third option would take place just as Colonel Childers is about to order his men to fire. Instead, he orders them to execute the GAMMA Option (you could call the action anything you would like). One of his men then pulls his pack off and takes out what looks like a short and stubby stovepipe. He places it on the ground and yells "Cover"--the tube fires a softball-sized round object up several hundred feet--the mob should be able to see it or hear the detonation; the ball is a superpowerful magnesium flare. Most of the mob will be looking up at the time, and their optic nerve will shut down--they will be temporarily blinded for 3-10 minutes.

The next part is to throw powerful smoke grenades out in front of the position to put an impenetrable smoke screen between the friendlies and the mob. Once obscured, the friendlies go about their work evacuating the area or consolidating the area. If incoming rounds are still impacting in their area, then designated snipers (up to one third of the force) using infrared sights that can see through the smoke engage ONLY the individuals that are using weapons--single shots aimed at individuals without harming those standing around.

If the embassy is to be evacuated, then the rescue force--Army or Marines--evacuates the ambassador and staff. While the evacuation is going on, a group of engineers prepares specific parts of the embassy for demolition--rubbling the entrances of the embassy to prevent the mob from getting inside the building while the staff and rescue force are leaving. Just as the final group leaves, the building is saturated with a vomiting agent in vapor form for quick dispersal but maximum short-term effect.

Using this option, casualties on both sides would be kept to a minimum. Why? Because if the type of scenario in Rules of Engagement was to really take place in some Middle Eastern country, American embassies in that area of the world would go up in flames. The use of nonlethal force has great advantages besides simply saving lives. If the Rangers had such capabilities in Mogadishu, more than 40 American Rangers and hundreds of Somalis would be alive today.

We have the technology to use these options to accomplish the mission with minimum casualties. The type of rescue mission you see in Rules of Engagement is not intended to rack up high body counts. In this situation, technology saves lives.

If I were commanding a rescue force in a situation similar to that you see in the movie, I would use the third option rather than fire into the crowd. In my mind, accomplishing the mission with minimum loss of life is the preferred option, as it would be for all military commanders.

If you think this type of a situation cannot happen, look at history. It has happened several times around the world in defense of American embassies against mobs. It can and will happen again.

Burton Wright III, Ph.D. is the command historian for the U.S. Army Chemical School at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.
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Title Annotation:use of nonlethal weapons in mob control and rescue missions
Author:Wright, Burton III
Publication:Military Police
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2000
Words:722
Previous Article:Panama--The End of an Era 1956-1999.
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