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Retired US colonel John B Alexander is unusual in his profession. He thinks that the best way to a peaceful world isn’t deadly force, but new weapons designed to minimise permanent injury. Some are already common, from electronic control devices like the controversial Tasers—used by Britain’s police to immobilise targets with electric shocks—to rubber bullets, chemical sprays and water cannons. But Alexander and other enthusiasts think the search for these weapons has just begun.

I met him in May on the edge of the Black Forest in Germany, at the 5th European Symposium on Non Lethal Weapons (NLWs). A handful…

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