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May 25, 2023
Notes from the Pentagon

New strategic threat emerging as weapons seek to target brain function, inflict neurological damage

By Bill Gertz
U.S. military forces are facing new dangers of nonkinetic warfare weapons in future conflicts including “neuro-strike” weapons designed to disrupt brain functions of key leaders, according to a military expert.

Robert McCreight, a retired national security specialist and former Army special operations officer, stated in an Army blog post that nonkinetic threats include silent, largely undetectable technologies capable of inflicting damaging, debilitating and degrading physical and neural effects on unwitting targets.

These new weapons can inflict strategic damage on military forces, he said.

“This covert threat is best understood as something to be invoked via rapid surprise attack, or as a stealthy forerunner to a massive kinetic follow-on attack,” Mr. McCreight said on the Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Mad Scientist blog.

“As such, it can gradually weaken, or soften up, targeted leaders, defensive systems and key infrastructure,” he wrote.

The weapons’ effect also can be magnified by causing damage to the brain functions of multiple people or groups.

Traditional kinetic warfare weapons are used to kill, destroy, maim and obliterate enemies, while nonkinetic warfare arms involve the use of lasers, cyber, directed energy and related technologies.

Mr. McCreight said that nonkinetic weapons can produce three kinds of strategic effects: A lightning decapitation strike against leaders; covert, undetected surprise attack to disable leadership; and insidious ongoing attacks that degrade leadership analysis, defensive systems and strategic warning.

“These reflect the infamous Sun Tzu quote, ‘the acme of skill is to win a war without firing a shot,’” Mr. McCreight wrote.

Military leaders are not doing enough to prepare for these kinds of attacks that represent a sixth war-fighting domain after air, land, sea, space and cyber.

The weapons will be used to target human neurobiological and biophysical vulnerabilities.

Mr. McCreight warned that the Army may be overconfident that its future soldiers can be protected by new forms of defenses such as exoskeletons, cyborg add-ons, special biophysical tools, artificial intelligence tools and other technology.

“However, a determined and skillful enemy can unleash an entire spectrum of technologies designed expressly to penetrate, weaken, offset, or overcome those enhancements,” he wrote.

Nonkinetic warfare tools can nullify future war-fighter protections rendering troops defenseless, Mr. McCreight warned.

In particular, neuro-strike weapons are game-changing arms that target the central nervous system, neuromechanics, and inner ear and balance systems. The result is covert, silent, undetected damage to cognitive functions, perception, brain functions, reasoning, judgment and decision-making.

“It is effective and debilitating, leaving its victims unable to perform normal brain functions for many years,” Mr. McCreight wrote.

“If future neuro-strike technology expansion in scope and effect exceeds individual attacks to impair dozens or hundreds of victims neurologically, the enemy has a concrete strategic edge,” he added.

A likely concept of employment in war would be to launch nonkinetic attacks prior to the start of kinetic hostilities, or for use in long-term efforts to degrade leaders’ brain function.

“If U.S. leadership ignores its strategic effect on future warfare, we find a fatal error,” according to Mr. McCreight.

The blog post made no mention of so-called Havana syndrome incidents that have caused neurological damage to U.S. officials overseas.

The U.S. intelligence community has sought to dismiss concerns that incidents involving severe brain injuries suffered by U.S. intelligence and diplomatic personnel overseas may be linked to hostile foreign powers.

The incidents are said to be continuing and have been reported in China, Cuba, Russia, Poland, Georgia, Serbia, Vietnam, India, Colombia, France, Switzerland and Taiwan.

A U.S. intelligence community analysis produced in March concluded that “most” spy services believe it is unlikely a foreign adversary is conducting brain attacks.

The conclusion is based on varying levels of confidence. Two agencies have moderate to high confidence, and three others have moderate confidence. Two others judged the incidents were “unlikely” caused by an adversary, with “low confidence” due to intelligence collection shortcomings.

China is working on brain weapons and the Commerce Department recently imposed sanctions on Chinese technology companies over concerns about their cognitive warfare development.

As Inside the Ring reported in 2021, a Chinese military report on brain weapons stated that advances in science and technology are producing new methods of subduing enemies. “War has started to shift from the pursuit of destroying bodies to paralyzing and controlling the opponent,” the report said.

“The focus is to attack the enemy’s will to resist, not physical destruction,” stated the report, titled “The Future of the Concept of Military Supremacy.”

House China panel seeks Taiwan legislation
Rep. Michael Gallagher, chairman of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, said Wednesday that the bipartisan panel is seeking key legislative solutions to bolster Taiwan’s defenses against potential Chinese attack.

The panel voted to approve 10 recommended measures, including more long-range missiles and drones for the U.S. military.

The measures assert that U.S. and Taiwan military forces need to strengthen military planning, and how to use sanctions in response to a Chinese attack.

The need for better-combined training between U.S. and Taiwan military forces is also cited, along with the need to speed up the dispatch of key U.S. weapons to the island democracy.

The legislation will also seek to improve military command and control for a future conflict in the region.

The committee separately approved a set of recommendations designed to hold China accountable for what the State Department has called the genocide of minority Uyghurs and others in western China.

“The select committee was able to pass two reports, with two sets of recommendations that are bipartisan, very strong,” Mr. Gallagher told reporters.

The Taiwan recommendations are not a comprehensive list of what is needed, but represent 10 things Congress can do.

“Most of the recommendations are teed up for the national defense authorization act,” Mr. Gallagher said.

“I’m cautiously optimistic, we’ll be able to get a lot of it into the NDAA,” he said, referring to the National Defense Authorization Act.

The two sets of recommendations are “a blueprint for legislative action, not just a report that’s going to sit on a shelf somewhere and collect dust,” he added.

In a separate report, a think tank associated with likely Republican presidential candidate and former Vice President Mike Pence called for a robust legislative agenda designed to counter the growing economic and military threat posed by China.

The group, Advancing American Freedom, said its future of freedom agenda would seek to boost U.S. military readiness, improve trade relations with other nations, work for U.S. energy independence, and protect Americans’ data.

“In recent years, China has only grown bolder in repressing religious liberty, trampling human rights, committing trade abuses, threatening Taiwan, and launching aggressive military maneuvers in the South China Sea,” Mr. Pence said.

“Appeasement has never worked a single time in human history, and it will not work now. America must send a clear message that this aggression will not be tolerated.

Climate change non-threat
For several years in a row, the U.S. intelligence community’s premier threat assessment of global dangers and challenges has failed to bolster claims by President Biden and others that climate change poses an existential threat.

The term existential threat is nowhere to be found in a section on climate change in the most recent annual threat assessment, published in January, by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The most that spy agencies would say about climate change is that it is increasing certain risks.

“Climate change will increasingly exacerbate risks to U.S. national security interests as the physical impacts increase and geopolitical tensions mount about the global response to the challenge,” the report states.

“The increasing physical effects of climate change also are likely to intensify or cause domestic and cross-border geopolitical flashpoints.”

The report also makes no mention of rising sea levels, which were said to be a particular concern in the Indo-Pacific region.

Former Vice President Al Gore, in his 2006 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” predicted that sea levels would rise 20 feet in the coming years. No such rise has taken place so far.

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter via @BillGertz.

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