Alger 2012. Development, Testing and Utilization of Weaponry of Advanced Technology and their Consequences for the Stability of the World An Appeal to Scientific Worker’s Social Responsibility

The World Federation of Scientific Workers has since its inception proclaimed the development and use of science for the good of humankind as its principal aim. It stands up for the fullest development of science, engineering and technology and their maximum use in solving the pressing problems of our time, including first of all the attainment of peace in the whole world, general disarmament, elimination of poverty, hunger, illiteracy and disease, overcoming the ecological crisis and the solution of other global problems of humankind.

In this respect, the WFSW sees its main task as the wide mobilisation of the world scientific community to attain these worthwhile goals.

In the present day one witnesses in the main technologically advanced countries a growing dangerous trend towards the development and perfecting of armaments of varied types that if not fought will most certainly lead to social instability and violence at the global level in a not too distant future. This is a motive of serious concern in a situation of global economic collapse coupled with the unpredictable and increasingly catastrophic consequences of climate change and resource scarcity, along with a new era of austerity defined by rising unemployment and glaring inequality. [1]

In this context, one can argue that the development, testing and utilization of weaponry of advanced technology, implying an enormous investment in human and material resources, is changing the way a war is fought or conducted, and the set of techniques used to carry out war or what is known as warfare. Changes are qualitative and often ethically perverse, namely in so far as the distinction between “soldier” and non-combatant civilian disappears or is purposely ignored.

On the other hand the concept of war as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between organized political communities, nations or states, no longer corresponds to situations in which new weaponry may be utilized by forces within their own territory, namely the so-called “non-lethal weapons” designed for crowd control purposes

The World Federation of Scientific Workers wishes to list a number of components of this new weaponry for the purpose of drawing the attention of its affiliated organizations, as well as of all concerned citizens and organizations. The specifications and predictable use of the armaments in question justify further examination which the International Commission on Disarmament, Security, and Peace of the World Federation of Scientific Workers proposes to carry out in due time.

The Commission underlines the importance of scrutinizing a number of sensitive research fields whose nature and possible military aggressive applications underlying a number of basic and applied research projects are currently being conducted mainly under contract and with funding from the military particularly in university or corporate laboratories and in specialized governmental agencies such as the DOD’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency in the USA.

Scientific workers and citizens in general are indeed faced today with the emergence of a remarkable assortment of technologies, devices and contraptions intended to be used or already being used for military aggressive purposes or intended for domestic use, outside any theater of war, to “control crowds, clear streets, subdue and restrain individuals and secure borders”. The Pentagon’s approved term for the latter is “non-lethal” or “less-lethal” weapons(NLW) and they are intended for use against the unarmed. The philosophy behind these NLW is clearly expressed in a 1997 joint report from the Pentagon and the US Justice Department as follows: [2]

“A further consideration that affects how the military and law enforcement apply force is the greater presence of members of the media or other civilians who are observing, if not recording, the situation. Even the lawful application of force can be misrepresented to or misunderstood by the public. More than ever, the police and the military must be highly discreet when applying force.”

The armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) known as “drones” represent an outstanding class of combat weapons that have already been used in local war theaters in at least half a dozen countries in three continents. In this case the decisive rationale behind their utilization is to minimize casualties among the men serving in the aggression army thus sparing their relatives at home the dramatic shock of facing the dead bodies of their loved ones. Clearly discretion comes up again as a protection against public reprobation. Thus research and development of such “media-friendly” NLW weapons represents a measure of self-defense of the culprits. It is thus not unreasonable to argue that we may be witnessing the first arms race in which the opponent is the general population.

A non-comprehensive listing of new weapon technologies [3] for combat, surveillance and crowd or riot control purposes include, besides the already mentioned UAVs, insect cyborgs [4], portable high-power microwave bombs [5]; directed energy weapons such as microwave energy blasters and blinding laser beams [6]; neurological weapons [7] including chemical agents [8]; sonic and ultrasonic weapons [5] (USW) of various types that use sound to injure, incapacitate, or kill an opponent[9]; wireless electrical projectiles as well as the Active Denial System (ADS), a weapon that uses wave energy to heat up water molecules in the subcutaneous layers of the skin, causing a painful burning sensation [10].

One shall include in the threat list chemical and bio-chemical incapacitating agents and biological agents (bacteria and fungi). Their use will be in direct contravention to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC)[11] Scientific workers engaged in research and development funded by the military should be aware of the social responsibilities involved and be concerned with the possible implications of their work. The scientific community as a whole should be aware of the ethics of the ends to which the results of such research and development are used.

In the dawn of the nuclear age a significant number of physicists including some of the most brilliant minds in their field, understood the dangers of atomic power, and the need to participate actively in managing these risks. The situation is quite different today in critical domains as robotics, nanotechnology and different branches of the life sciences that are of particular importance for the military establishment [12].

In those fields of science and engineering where the level of funding by the military is very important or even dominant, scientific workers in search of a job that is stable and a work place where they can expect to be able to make a career that fulfills their legitimate professional expectations may well face the difficult choice between working in a military project or do not gaining entry to their desired profession [13]. This situation requires a concerted effort directed at supporting socially responsible scientific workers especially the young ones confronted with such a dilemma, by Scientific Workers Organizations, either professional, including, Trade Union Organizations, or of organizations with a wider span of purposes, of which the World Federation of Scientific Workers is a notable example.

Algiers, September 2012

Text prepared by FredericoCarvalho

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