View Full Version : The Somalia Experiment

11-07-02, 01:16 PM
By Eugune Ciurana

The Marines stationed in Somalia during Operation United Shield faced a situation they hadn't encountered during training: a dangerous situation without an enemy. They confronted not a highly trained army but mobs of Somali citizens incited by the local warlords to pick fights with the U.S. soldiers. The Marines suddenly needed weapons that would allow them to subdue the mobs without resorting to conventional firepower.

Enter Robert Walsh, former combat science advisor for the First Marine Expeditionary Force--and now with Maverick Advantage, a company that makes and supplies nonlethal weapons--who had briefed the armed forces on nonlethals, without much fanfare, before the Somalia crisis. Barely days before the operation began, he was told to equip the Marines with nonlethal weapons so that they could manage the Somali mobs. Scrambling to gather up proven nonlethals that fit the Marines' delicate mission, he armed them primarily with the sort of nonlethals used by police officers--pepper spray, impact weapons like bean bags, and "flash bangs," grenades that emit light and intense heat. He also brought along a few goodies not yet on the commercial market: foams that immobilized attackers and lightweight lasers used for night vision and detection.

Considered by proponents to be the first successful implementation of nonlethal weapons, the Somalia operation proved nonlethals' effectiveness in unforeseen ways: The Marines didn't even have to use the weapons to achieve the desired effect. The Somali crowds backed down immediately when the Marines appeared outfitted in riot gear, carrying various nonlethal weapons, and aligned in mob-control formations, according to Walsh. They understood that the Marines were prepared to actually use these new tools, something the soldiers couldn't do with their rifles, and responded accordingly.

At night, some daring perpetrators who tried to carry out attacks under cover of darkness thought twice after finding themselves in the crosshairs of laser pointers. "I didn't think Schwarzenegger movies had an audience there," Walsh jokes, "but they sure knew what the little red dot meant. They'd turn around and run away as fast as they could when we shined it on them."

Other sources claim that the military successfully used misinformation as a tool as well. Word was allegedly leaked that the Marines had brought with them a new, unspecified weapon. Many Somalis believed it would cause sterility, and the number of agitators decreased dramatically.

12-01-02, 07:31 AM
The Somalia Experiment reminds me of a movie I saw several decades ago.

Bwana amazed and brought fear to the locals with his Poloroid camera.

Damn! How time flies.

08-08-04, 09:31 AM
Bumping for the new folks