New Directions in Chemical Warfare

From New Scientist:

The Pentagon considered developing a host of non-lethal chemical weapons that would disrupt discipline and morale among enemy troops, newly declassified documents reveal.

Most bizarre among the plans was one for the development of an "aphrodisiac" chemical weapon that would make enemy soldiers sexually irresistible to each other. Provoking widespread homosexual behaviour among troops would cause a "distasteful but completely non-lethal" blow to morale, the proposal says.

Other ideas included chemical weapons that attract swarms of enraged wasps or angry rats to troop positions, making them uninhabitable. Another was to develop a chemical that caused "severe and lasting halitosis", making it easy to identify guerrillas trying to blend in with civilians. There was also the idea of making troops' skin unbearably sensitive to sunlight.

Technology always gets better; it never gets worse. There will be a time, probably in our lifetimes, when weapons like these will be real.

Posted on June 9, 2006 at 1:33 PM • 69 Comments

Comments

JuergenJune 9, 2006 1:53 PM

Am I the only one who imagines a blue-on-blue incident which turns a whole battalion of Marines into gays? ;-)

mr. b.June 9, 2006 1:54 PM

Your closing comment drips with ironic reversal: Technology does not always get better, in many ways it does get worse. Engineers/Chemists or their superiors can choose the ideas they wish to research and develop. Can weapons development every be considered the moral path?

LockeJune 9, 2006 1:58 PM

This is cool. Anything to reduce the death toll is great. If I were involved in a war, I would certainly prefer having bad breath, insect infestations, or sexual dysfunction to being blown to bits.

BennyJune 9, 2006 1:59 PM

This is strange:

"Most bizarre among the plans was one for the development of an "aphrodisiac" chemical weapon that would make enemy soldiers sexually irresistible to each other. Provoking widespread homosexual behaviour among troops would cause a "distasteful but completely non-lethal" blow to morale, the proposal says."

To the best of my knowledge, homosexuality is not present in a majority of the population. So are they claiming that there are chemicals that will convert enemy heterosexuals into homosexuals? Because otherwise I fail to see how it will make the behavior "wide-spread".

JungsonnJune 9, 2006 2:23 PM

One of the most forgotten and unknown methods in the second world war was that the german army openend Chlorine valves along some major borders. The enemy walked into these Chlorine clouds, so they put on gasmasks. Well, then the germans army did something quite inventive: they mixed the Chlorine with a chemical causes someone to vommit. And thereby has to take of his gasmask.

Evolution.

jayhJune 9, 2006 2:27 PM

@Benny

---To the best of my knowledge, homosexuality is not present in a majority of the population. So are they claiming that there are chemicals that will convert enemy heterosexuals into homosexuals? Because otherwise I fail to see how it will make the behavior "wide-spread--

Sexual behavior under duress may be different from one's actual inclinations... 'homosexual' behavior in prison occurs in many people not at all inclined that way in the outside world.

SteveJune 9, 2006 2:41 PM

Am I the only one to be reminded of the Dilbert cartoon wherein Dilbert invents an irresistible sex pheromone?

"I'm reeeeaally beginning to like me. . ."

Joe BuckJune 9, 2006 2:41 PM

I couldn't tell if it was day or night

I started kissing everything in sight

But when I kissed the cop at 34th and Vine

He broke my little bottle of ...

Love Potion Number Nine

PihkalJune 9, 2006 2:43 PM

Just read up on Alexander Shulgin's work and the history of some of the chemicals he's worked with. I'm sure one of the mystical, outlawed chemicals could cause havoc to an army. It's only a question of deployment.

DMJune 9, 2006 2:47 PM

What we need is a chemical weapon that turns the skin of evil-doers red. That way we know who to shoot and drop bombs on.

NeurophyreJune 9, 2006 3:03 PM

Stanislaw Lem's _The Futurological Congress_ predicted aphrodisiac and psychedelic weapons. I think it was written in the 30s or 40s. Quite a mind-bending read.

TimJune 9, 2006 3:13 PM

But at the least, defenses should get better as the attacks get better.

JiminyJune 9, 2006 3:26 PM

Or maybe we can try working on society so attacks become fewer instead of just improving defenses. Isn't that what M.A.D. in the Cold War was all about - the perfect defense?

SamarkandJune 9, 2006 3:35 PM

I'm sure these are interesting chemical researches, but has anyone stopped to consider what would happen should these become available to terrorists?

Can you imagine a cloud of that "aphrodisiac" drifting over, say, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue? The horror, the horror...

Or how about the wasp-attractant dispersed in Manhattan? Or worse, the rodent attractant: every mouse or rat hiding in a wall, cellar, or sewer would suddenly vault into broad daylight and throw itself at the nearest human. The city would be uninhabitable.

The mind reels at the possibilities. Stop the madness before it starts.

royJune 9, 2006 3:43 PM

Any chemical with aphrodisiacal properties will be a hormone or hormone analog, and hormonal responsiveness is strictly dependent upon dosage. In combat, there will be no way to reliably deliver dosages within the target range -- enough to make the desired effect dominate behavior yet not enough for lethality.

Nonlethal gases have never worked well in actual warfare. Tear gas and pepper spray are nearly innocuous when used in the heat of battle.

Remember the disaster that happened when a fentanyl aerosol was tried in rescuing Russian children?

This is really a silly idea and should be scrapped immediately.

The drug companies who want government funds to develop it, and eventually fail, will, however, no doubt get what they want.

Matthew SkalaJune 9, 2006 5:25 PM

I remember that this story made the rounds of Web logs when it came out a year or so ago, and I was rather disappointed at the time because most people commenting on it went off into lengthy analysis of the ethical and other implications of having a weapon that could cause enemy soldiers to start engaging in homosexual behaviour, without sanity-checking the underlying concept. That's like having a big argument about the implications of a DRM technology that really works. It ain't gonna happen, so it doesn't matter much whether it would be morally acceptable.

It sounds like this time around, most people commenting are asking the right question ("Could such a weapon plausibly exist at all?") - but then, it may be that readers here are a little smarter than the average Web log's readers.

Daniel PawtowskiJune 9, 2006 7:13 PM

I did see a hisotry book once that claimed the first "biological weapon" was a thrown ceramic jar with a wasp nest in it.

AlanJune 9, 2006 7:19 PM

If the aphrodesiac chemical weapon is ever developed, it will become the greatest "club drug" known to man.

AnonymousJune 9, 2006 7:29 PM

> If the aphrodesiac chemical weapon is ever developed, it will become the
> greatest "club drug" known to man.

The potential for abuse is obscene. This isn't something I want in the hands of a bunch of lonely, stressed twenty-something males, even if they are obscenely well disciplined.

Nick LancasterJune 9, 2006 7:45 PM


And will the same folks telling us we need a Constitutional Amendment to protect marriage from the insidious scourge of creeping gayness find the use of this 'gay gas' morally questionable, as it imposes the circumstance from without? How about the morality of killing people who aren't carrying a weapon? (Or is this a fundamentalist two-fer, smack the infidel and punish homosexuals?)

Overall, I think somebody's been reading too much spam about ultra-pheromones.

The common interspecies responses are fight, flight, posture, and submit. (It's only fight/flight between different species.) Even if this theoretical gas would make a priest shuck his cassock and get it on, why is it assumed that enemy soldiers would not be able to perceive a threat and respond to the survival imperative?

winsnomoreJune 9, 2006 9:29 PM

me thinks this was done to turn the good folks of Haight-Ashbury to edorse the new military strategy, hey they may even suggest new attacks on "homophobic evil-doers"
Was this during Clinton's time .. he sure knew how to bring people together.

Valdis KletnieksJune 9, 2006 11:10 PM

Locke comments that he'd rather end up with sexual dysfunction than getting blown to bits. However, the average infantryman thinks differently:

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S-mine

It was during the Allied actions in Europe that the S-mine gained its cynical nickname Bouncing Betty from American infantrymen. The S-mine had a great psychological effect on Allied forces, because of its tendency to seriously maim infantrymen's limbs or genitalia rather than killing them. In his book Mine Warfare on Land, Lt. Col. Sloan described the S-mine as "probably the most feared device encountered by Allied troops in the war."

BananenflankeJune 9, 2006 11:36 PM

@ Jungsonn:

"One of the most forgotten and unknown methods in the second world war was that the german army openend Chlorine valves along some major borders. The enemy walked into these Chlorine clouds, so they put on gasmasks. Well, then the germans army did something quite inventive: they mixed the Chlorine with a chemical causes someone to vommit. And thereby has to take of his gasmask."

Don't you mean the FIRST world war? I didn't know chemical weapons were used on the battlefield in WWII. Some say the otherwise less scrupulous Adolf H. did not want to use them because of his WWI experiences.

Matthew SkalaJune 10, 2006 12:10 AM

Anonymous says: "This isn't something I want in the hands of a bunch of lonely, stressed twenty-something males, even if they are obscenely well disciplined."

and that's actually the core of why it's impossible. There are and have been a whole lot of people (many of them stressed 20-something males) who would *really* like to have a chemical capable of causing humans to compulsively have sex with any convenient person, overriding sexual orientation or military discipline or even just ordinary social inhibitions. Humans have been searching for a drug like that for millennia, and trying to approximate it with a whole lot of extremely ineffective and dangerous compromises (e.g. alcohol, "Spanish Fly", etc.), and we've never found anything remotely close.

If it were possible for a simple drug to have that effect, I think it's pretty much certain that it would have already been discovered by now. The fact that it hasn't, I'd take as strong evidence that the human brain just is not constructed in such a way that a drug can have that effect. Just because a military think tank came up with the "what if" concept in a brainstorming session doesn't mean we're any closer to developing it than we've ever been.

DevangJune 10, 2006 12:56 AM

Energy based and 4G warfare I've heard of, but non-lethal warfare... that could actually be an improvement.

What's maddening is that the science behind producing these weapons can be used for good, like minimizing human interference with habitats or something, but no, since the science is done in the military sector, all the rest of us hear is no soup for you!

SkailJune 10, 2006 5:04 AM

"Most bizarre among the plans was one for the development of an "aphrodisiac" chemical weapon"

... Wait, wasn't that an episode of Stargate SG-1? or was it Star Trek?... Next Gen, or Original... hmmm, probably both... in fact, isn't this a freakin STAPLE of science fiction television?

(minus the homoerotic part I guess, but really... as a geek, I've seen this before.. many, many times..)

NeilJune 10, 2006 7:06 AM

Norman Spinrad wrote that almost 40 years ago. ("No Direction Home"?)
The military-industrial-pharmaceutical complex has a a claustrophilia drug for the guys at the moon base, but it makes tham gay, so big pharma comes up with yet another drug to take care of that side effect . . .

billswiftJune 10, 2006 8:27 AM

This isn't very original, as several posters have pointed out it has been a staple of science fiction for decades - mostly showing what could go wrong.

For a recent, and realistic, view of how viciously "nonlethal" weapons could be used see Michael Z Williamson's novel "Freehold".

AnonymousJune 10, 2006 10:20 AM

Interesting,if both sides of the warfare use such non-lethal weapons.That way there won't be any deadly wars tht pentagons may plan in future.

GaryJune 10, 2006 11:14 AM

Uh, did anyone notice the title of the article: "Pentagon reveals *rejected* chemical weapons" - rejected, not "planned."

jammitJune 10, 2006 11:35 AM

Next on the battlefield, heavy rock music being blared 24/7 for psychological effect is replaced with Barry White.
I think this stuff is fantastic. Even acid (the happy drug) was looked at being used in war. I don't look at fighting a war in reducing casualities (even though it would be nice), but in remaining alive. I believe Winston Churchill said war doesn't decide wrong or right, but who's left.

DannyJune 10, 2006 2:46 PM

Daniel da Cruz wrote a novel based on this premise, back in the good old days of the Cold War. The book was called F-Cubed (1987, Del Rey) -- a play on Furious F***ing Pheromone. I guess Sci-Fi is often a pretty good indicator about the future.

MannyJune 10, 2006 7:27 PM

Homophobia is rampant in certain populations, but even if a man isn't a homophobe he's not going to be comfortable when the soldier sitting next to him in a tank or laying next to him in a trench starts sporting an obvious woody. He's going to feel even worse when, in the midst of his discomfort and unable to get questions out of his mind, he starts sporting one too. Chemicals don't have leave them jumping each other to break morale.

gogoJune 11, 2006 4:41 AM

And what about when criminals get hold of these chemicals and release it in a subway? Mass disturbance much greater than any explosive could cause.

another_bruceJune 11, 2006 1:12 PM

i'd like to get ahold of the gay aphrodisiac and spray it from a cropduster onto a promise keepers' rally.

robJune 11, 2006 4:23 PM

Non-lethal weapons cannot be used in warfare, the whole purpose of war is to "take the ground and hold it".
They aren't too bad for separating the goats from the sheep though. The military have always held to the doctrine that you can't make omelettes without breaking eggs. This kind of research is aimed at only lightly damaging the rest of the crate.

StephenJune 12, 2006 2:08 AM

I must confess I'm rather taken aback at some of the optimistic comments on this topic. I don't think any of the weapons mentioned would cause entire armies to surrender, but rather would function to disrupt the orderly functioning of enemy military forces at numerous levels. This, in turn, serves only to open a window of opportunity in which the standard, lethal weaponry an be deployed much more efficaciously. So this really isn't a choice between unwanted urges toward your trench-mate and a mortar round to the chest. You get the mortar round either way. If lives are saved, they are almost certain to be on the side that deploys such weapons, which are adjuncts, not alternatives. Of course, that's assuming that they work...

codswallopJune 12, 2006 3:13 AM

Seems to be a good candidate for a movie plot terrorist attack. Image a terrorist managing to release this stuff into a televised session of the legislature, say the US Congress or UK House of Commons.

Might just revive the average voter's interest in politics.

JungsonnJune 12, 2006 5:39 AM

I think there has always been a way of putting down morale at the enemies side.

The one which i most like it the Mahatma Ghandi way of fighting a whole army, by not fighting at all. Imagine the morale of soldiers who faces an enemy that just won't fight you.

It takes two to tango.

RogerJune 12, 2006 7:42 AM

It's odd that we got so many Wikipedia links, without any links to the Wikipedia article about this "weapon":
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay_bomb
The 1994 report which gave rise to this was the response to a request for some totally off-the-wall speculation about possible nonlethal weapons, and out of three pages of wacky ideas, just one sentence was about the supposed homosexual aphrodisiac. Needless to say, this "gay bomb" was a three day wonder with the world's press (in January 2005) -- which ignored all the other notions, which were just as wacky but not as salacious.

Later in the same 3 page report, they acknowledged that the idea itself is pure sci-fi; no such materials are actually known. (Since then, bremelanotide has been identified as probably the first real aphrodisiac, but it isn't even in the ball park of being effective enough to cause people to lose control of themselves, even if administered directly, and has no effect on sexual orientation.)

So if this little saga tells us anything, it is what a bunch of careless sleazes some journalists are.

On the other hand, there has been serious experimentation with psychotropic nonlethal chemical weapons. BZ was already mentioned above. BZ, which was originally studied in the late 40s and 50s, does actually seem to be close to ideal for a nonlethal weapon. It has a very high therapeutic index (~2,000), making the risk of overdose very low; the effects wear off within a couple of days; and the main effects are confusion, listlessness and automatic behaviours, rendering the afflicted largely harmless with a minimum of distress. (Unfortunately a major side effect is heat stress, which can be serious in hot weather.) It is almost a pity that it is listed on schedule 2 of the CWC; it seems far more humane than conventional weapons.

joseJune 12, 2006 10:12 AM

This class of warfare comes from non catholic and perverted , sick minds from pentagon , the pentagon must to say what a hell is doing with public monery , this class of thing , show the decadence of UUSS army , god protect northeamerican from this class of decadent and sick people, is inmoral , not even the devil , have such demoniac weapon.

joseJune 12, 2006 10:16 AM

Bruce dont delete my post or you are censuring my post , who is not inmoral or obscene , just only , say the true without anestesic , dont be one represor

joseJune 12, 2006 11:29 AM

jeremiah you look like you are one religious people not just catholic , is true.
Really I dont understand your message ,have a good day.

N0June 12, 2006 2:11 PM

Next up, the gay marriage bomb. Drop this lil bastard amongst the enemy and watch the ensuing hilarity as they struggle for acceptance and equal rights... Why bother fighting, when there's petitions to sign and commitment ceremonies to attend?
Really, Mr. Pentagon, is that all you can cook up? Methinks thou art porn-damaged...

SavikJune 12, 2006 4:49 PM

@Jungsonn

If your comment was serious:

If I were a soldier and ran across enemy soldiers that wouldn't fight -- they would be shot. And it it would hurt my morale at all.

You might note -- the 1st Gulf War the Iraqis hardly fought but surrendered in droves. Again not hurting the morale of the U.S. troops.

JungsonnJune 13, 2006 6:13 AM

Well, you would not have a chance of morale, if their is no war. When the other party decides NOT to fight.

It would put down my morale if i hate someone, and that person says to me: I love you, even if you hate me. Bigggg put down :)

If only one party decides not to play, then there is no game.

SavikJune 13, 2006 9:02 AM

@Jungsonn

Me thinks you don't understand that in the real world there are people that will kill you despite how much you love them; and won't feel put down at all when you tell them you love them; they will laugh in your face as they throw you into the gas chambers.

For instance, take Hitler. He invades Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland -- all the while England says we are not going to fight...after Poland England wakes up to the real world and realizes that if they don't fight...they are dead. And because they did not fight earlier far more people had to die.

Appeasement never works. Not with your children and not with other nations.

DeathwindJune 13, 2006 11:20 AM

Non-lethal weapons make for fun articles from time to time in the media but they're hardly new.

Apart from the fact they're so outrageous which always provokes debate, it is interesting to note that hardly any of them actually get to be used or produced in significant proportion.

They seem to reflect a desire for politically correct wars where no one would be hurt. This appeals obviously to some politicians and starry-eyed pacifists so these programs get funding but basically as someone else said they're just not suited to waging war.

War is waged by killing and wounding people, nothing is so effective in subduing people as this, it's a simple fact of life.

The military know that but the politicians don't and the military are always eager to please the politicians (especially if it means getting funding).
Non-lethal might in the future work but they still will not be cost effective.

JungsonnJune 13, 2006 1:14 PM

@Savik.

Correctly assumed. People are still subzero in their minds, and i know that many walk over other people.

But fact remains that it did happen, even in this real harsh world :)

as Einstein quoted:

"Generations after Ghandi would never believe such person as Ghandi ever lived on this earth"

AGJune 13, 2006 1:50 PM

Ponder this;

How many soldiers have new military weapons been used against vs. civilians?

Are new weapons really being made and used against armies or civilians?

Examples: V2 rockets, FireBombs, Nuclear Bombs, Chemical Weapons, etc

TaelorJune 13, 2006 4:54 PM

@Jungson

I don't think Gandhi was trying to demoralize the british troops. Instead, he was trying to gain the sympathy of the british people, to whom the troops were ultimatly answerable.

RogerJune 13, 2006 7:48 PM

@AG:
I think your point was probably that they are made to be used against civilians. If so, I disagree. Many weapons have been used against civilians, and a few -- fortunately, a very few -- have even been designed to do so. But the great majority have not. Your list, even though selective, demonstrates this:
* V2: one of the few indeed designed specifically for use against civilians; but
* Firebombs: originally designed for use against fortifications, used against both armed forces and civilians;
* Nuclear bombs: while obviously intended to shock the Japanese into surrender with their immense destructive power, there was long debate over targeting, and purely military targets were only reluctantly and ultimately rejected on the grounds that delivery could not be guaranteed to be sufficiently accurate. In the end, both bombs were targeted at military installations inside cities of considerable military significance. During the Cold War, the overwhelming majority of nuclear weapons were targeted at military installations.
* Chemical weapons: so far to date, the overwhelming majority of victims have been soldiers.

A less selective list makes it clearer: high explosive artillery shells, machine guns, tanks, flamethrowers, bounding fragmentation mines, armour piercing bullets, etc etc. All designed for military use.

Partly this is because civilised society abhors the targeting of civilians in war -- with certain exceptions such as arms factories, government offices, etc. But also, there is little need to design new weapons to target civilians; the old ones still work (consider the Interahamwe machetes in Rwanda.)

joseJune 14, 2006 4:15 PM

Why dont use oxitocin to make in negociations the enemy to be more trust on , not to make this people homosexual , please , god help us, from this class of people making so stupid weapons

joseJune 14, 2006 4:18 PM

Bruce visit www.verolabs.com and make one advice of security of people giving their passwords , because they become suddenly trust the people with oxitocin on their bodies. Believe me this will be one security problem.

LanceJune 15, 2006 5:45 PM

'The Pentagon considered developing a host of non-lethal chemical weapons that would disrupt discipline and morale among enemy troops, newly declassified documents reveal.'

'Most bizarre among the plans was one for the development of an "aphrodisiac" chemical weapon that would make enemy soldiers sexually irresistible to each other. Provoking widespread homosexual behaviour among troops would cause a "distasteful but completely non-lethal" blow to morale, the proposal says.'

And what did they call this super-weapon? Beer. ;)

Rob NapierJune 21, 2006 7:15 PM

I believe you have just demonstrated that, in fact, technology can get worse....

Nick T.March 26, 2007 12:36 PM

In response to "Am I the only one who imagines a blue-on-blue incident which turns a whole battalion of Marines into gays? ;-)"

You might consider that numerous studies already show a vastly higher proportion of homosexual behavior in the armed services as compared to the general pop. (Marines being the highest). Most soldiers are able to separate when it is time to fight and when it is time to have sex. The variety of sex seems irrelevant compared to the timing.

This plan has all the merit of saying "we'll drop inflatable female sex dolls over enemy troops and all the straight guys will drop their guns to hump the balloon women".

If technology improves and this gas comes to pass, it would most likely become a recreational drug or a joke to pull at the company party.

BobMarch 21, 2008 5:24 AM

In some ways it woudl be good to have non-lethal chemical weapons- if they didn't have too serious side effects, they would be really good for hostage situations and so on.

Problem is they can never seem to get it to work-last time anyone tried it was in Moscow, in which more hostages died than bad guys (then again, the government, for whatever reason, didn't say what it was, so it couldn't be treated). Something like BZ would be good- release it onto the bad guys, doesn't kill anyone, then you move in and arrest the whole lot of 'em.

What we'd need for good gureilla warfare would be something that caused skin discolouration (perhaps a spray gun with dye would be good) so we could stop 'em blending in with people.

And if that ahprodisiac was ever made, I can see a few other uses for it...

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