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You are the commander of the China Special Forces and Reconnaissance Company of the 13th United Nations Force Intervention Brigade, based at Minot Air Force Base. Your location in Dakota is part of West Canada, whose government you do not formally recognize; but you have an agreement with them authorizing your presence. It is March, and the raiding season is underway; three shotcallers leading 1500 men are making attacks throughout the territory for loot, ransom, and to project terror across the region. (Compare the Nigerian bandit conflict.) You face a few challenges with your current mission...

  • If you stick to your agreement with the Dakotans, you are not authorized to use lethal force except in self-defense.
  • Your mission (from the UN, at least) is to "neutralize and disrupt" the raiders that enter Dakota. You can arrest them or use non-lethal means to repel them. However, if you arrest them, you and your family will be targeted for merciless retaliation.
  • The raiders are part of an immense empire covering all of southeastern North America, centered near the former Washington D.C. The borderland area of Dakota is considered rather sparse pickings, and faces a high risk of military reprisals. Local shotcallers violently resist the arrival of competitors from their own empire. However, if raiders drop out of the local trade, they will be quickly replaced by others seeking the same opportunity. An all-out war with the raiders will mobilize the Empire, which had been avoiding just such war -- the survival of your base will be in doubt. (Note that your fellow peacekeepers have already removed all nuclear capabilities from the base)
  • You have been mulling over methods of unconventional warfare, and have been given a green light by the higher-ups on one contentious issue: the use of insects will not be considered an attack with a biological agent in contravention of the BWC, provided they do not reproduce. In that case they are simply trained attack animals, like war dogs or war elephants.

Given these constraints, you have had a strategy meeting at which the use of lice has been proposed. These lice are not lethal, do not produce or carry any prohibited chemical agent or biological weapon (assuming current treaties roughly apply), and they do not reproduce. They may be bred en masse prior to sterilization, and genetically modified to be unusually obnoxious ... even for lice. You want them to discourage and disrupt the raiders, but you do not want to suspected for their presence or characteristics. What is the most effective way for your company to employ war lice under these conditions?

P.S. the tongue in cheek answers are much appreciated. I should have mentioned this is the same scenario as the scythe bicycle. I'm aiming for a world much like our own, balancing stark realism and implausible inanity in equal measure.

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  • $\begingroup$ Why lice and not ticks? $\endgroup$ Jan 16 at 0:10
  • $\begingroup$ What exactly do you mean by "prohibited chemical agent" or "recognised biological weapon"? Prohibited/recognised under the Geneva Convention? Intended or likely to be lethal? $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Jan 16 at 0:23

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Shampoo Full of Lice Eggs.

enter image description here

For the modern terrorist on the go, it is of vital importance that your hair remain smooth and silky in even the most nail-biting of combat scenarios. It's not only about how many children and civilians you can gun down and how many electricity pylons you can blow each day. It's also about looking good doing it. You need hair that resists the ravages of sweat, blood, tear gas and bomb dust but retains that extra body and lift that makes you go oooh -- who is that?

Accordingly the raiders were overjoyed when they discovered a palette of luxury shampoo in the basement of a gymnasium. And as luck would have it the gymnasium had a backup petrol powered generator to heat water. That means hot showers for everyone even though we have sabotaged all the local infrastructure.

Exactly one week later all the troops has lice. Fortunately on week two they discovered a palette of luxury anti-parasitic shampoo (or that's what the label says) in the basement of a local swimming pool. . . .

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  • $\begingroup$ So ..cool people with silky hair don't look at explosions? I don't really get the image.. $\endgroup$
    – Joachim
    Jan 16 at 11:36
  • $\begingroup$ It is not a great picture. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Jan 16 at 14:16
  • $\begingroup$ That doesn't explain you using it, though :) $\endgroup$
    – Joachim
    Jan 16 at 14:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Joachim I was looking for something with good hair and something to do with guns or explosions. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Jan 16 at 14:34
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The wording of this question indicates that it is set in the future, and implies that genetic engineering of insects is possible.

So, my proposal is to genetically engineer the lice in the manner required to prevent their fertility in end-generation descendants as required, plus modifying them so that their salivary glands produce a particular cocktail of additional substances that will be injected into a subject bitten by a louse. These substances are:

  • a cocktail of diuretics

  • More of the substances in louse saliva that stimulates the release of histamine.

  • a cocktail of hallucinogens including mescaline and DMT in relatively high doses. These substances are used since their use in rituals by native American tribes means that they are not scheduled under the UN convention on psychotropic substances.

When air-dropped by drone over a group of raiders, being bitten by these lice would cause intense itching, diuresis and a hallucinatory state, the combination of these effects likely to cause an intense and prolonged bad trip.

Along with the likelihood of increased water consumption depleting the raiders supply of water and purifying agents, the hallucinatory effects of the louse bites should serve to cut short the raiders' incursions and discourage their return.

In addition, the proximity of armed individuals who are hallucinating and potentially suffering from paranoia is a likely recipe for friendly fire incidents.

Finally, that the raiders would be more likely to fire upon defending forces, with reduced effect due to their hallucinatory state, would likely give the defenders carte blanche to return fire in self-defence.

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Infect the locals.

Persons at risk of attack by the raiders will be infected by lice. Later, when these persons are taken hostage they will infect the raiders they come in contact with. Loot from the locals will also have lice which will infect the raiders they come in contact with.

These lice are horrifically mobile. Infected raiders returning with lice will be ostracized by their peers. Loot will be abandoned. Captured Dakotans will explain that these terrible lice seemed to fall out of the sky and have been a miserable scourge all winter. They are hoping when the weather warms up to get everything outside and try to eliminate the lice, but March is still very much winter in the Dakota.

The raiders are pretty well grossed out. They decide to go elsewhere and seek prey without cooties.

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  • $\begingroup$ Lice aren't readily transmitted between adults. It's more of a childhood thing. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Jan 16 at 23:19
  • $\begingroup$ @MontyWild - that is true for head lice. This is war and so these are body lice. They do just fine adult to adult. my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17919-body-lice $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jan 16 at 23:27
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Since you didn't specify head lice, spreading some... lower down lice via houses of ill repute could be one way to hit the enemy where it counts. Of course, the employees of such establishments might not want to have this problem themselves (or might have removed body hair in areas those lice prefer to inhabit), so you need establishments that offer clients a shower when they are done enjoying the other services. You just need one or two well-bribed workers to make sure the targetted clients get the VIP (Very Itchy Person) towels.

Even though these genetically modified lice can't reproduce, that doesn't mean they can't lay eggs. If those eggs happen to spontaneously rupture under very little pressure and contain highly concentrated capsaicin, that would turn up the heat on the enemy considerably.

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Furry Animals

Put lice in fur of furry animals (cats, dogs, sheep) and send them towards enemy camps. The animals could be trained, so that they rub themselves with heads of sleeping enemy.

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  • $\begingroup$ Lice tend to prefer very specific hosts. Animal lice are unlikely to be successfully transmitted to a different animal. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Jan 16 at 10:18
  • $\begingroup$ Spy Cats was what I was originally going to go with. Perhaps with "the right scent cues" rubbed into their fur, the human lice could be kept interested long enough to ride to a destination. But not so much training here - we're talking about 2050s China, so they are, ahem, very good at electronics. $\endgroup$ Jan 16 at 17:27
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Wind Dispersal

If you can genetically modify the sterile lice you could make them a bit more aerodynamic and proceed to disperse them upwind of the raiders whether through airdrop or some other means. The panic caused by the rapid infection of their army from seemingly nowhere would cripple morale

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