The French marched off to war in 1914 in glorious lines of infantry in baby blue coats and bright red trousers to be mowed down by the finest technology the Industrial Revolution had to offer. For us now it is easy to see how insane this was and how flawed the understanding of both the commoners and even the experts was in terms of how combat and war actually worked at the time. This naive view of modern tactics certainly applies to street conflicts we are seeing in France as part of the Yellow Vest protests. The so-called non-lethal (and less-lethal) arms of the French authorities gives them a tactical advantage far beyond that of any assault rifle.
Thanks to the media we have become accustomed to video of protestors getting sprayed by water or having their ranks dispersed thanks to tear gas, leaving everyone wet or coughing respectively but otherwise unharmed. However this humane picture does not meet up with the realities of this civilian vs. cop style warfare.
If we are to take the Yellow Vest protestors at their word then at least 22 of them have lost an eye (from “less-lethal” Flash-ball guns) and 5 have had their hands blown off with 154 being “seriously injured”. Obviously the protestors will want to maximize their statistics but there are plenty of videos from the various actions/demonstrations showing horrible injuries which are too numerous to all be fakes. So the numbers may be off but the overall general tendencies of these injuries do occur from the French authorities in the Human Rights defending EU is a proven fact. The simple reality is that despite a nice marketing phrase non-lethal weapons cripple and on occasion kill.
In order to understand the tactical advantage that non-lethal weapons offer the government (not the individual police but the state itself) we need to put aside our emotional response to seeing French people having their limbs blown off. We have to not jump into ranting about the flagrant hypocrisy of the EU when it comes to human rights and rationally break down how the conflicts between Yellow and Blue vests could look if the arms situation were different.