Stephen Zunes : Nonviolent Action
Carl Gibson and Steve Horn have done an important service in writing their article outlining Srdja Popovic’s inexcusable collaboration with the global intelligence company STRATFOR and his disclosure of the activities of movements and activists with whom he has worked. Unfortunately, as will be spelled out below, the article falls into a rather simplistic and reductionist analysis of Popovic’s motivations and, more critically, misrepresents the nature of the popular uprisings in Serbia and other countries. The article also contains a number of factual errors and misleading statements.
A response to Maged Mandour: There is little systematic evidence to suggest that “ruthlessness” is, in and of itself, a critical variable.
Foreign military intervention would prolong the war and increase the carnage still further. But this does not mean that the US in conjunction with others, including Syrian civil society, cannot do anything to help the situation. Reply to Nader Hashemi.
In this reply to a critique by Nader Hashemi, Dr. Zunes explains that:
“Whether or not a movement is primarily violent or nonviolent, what is important is whether it employs strategies and tactics that can maximize its chances of success. “
The worsening violence and repression in Syria has left many analysts and policymakers in the United States and other western countries scrambling to think of ways our governments could help end the bloodshed and support those seeking to dislodge the Assad regime. The desperate desire to “do something” has led a growing number of people to advocate for increased military aid to armed insurgents or even direct military intervention, as the French government has said it will consider doing unilaterally.
A political struggle now under way on a tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean has huge implications for the global struggle for democracy and human rights. Western powers which profess to support democratic and accountable governance need to act decisively to prevent this Muslim nation, whose protracted nonviolent freedom struggle was an important precursor for the Arab Spring, to continue its slide back into authoritarianism.
t’s been a year since the Occupy Wall Street movement sprang up. Since then, it has fizzled, but this does not mean that the underlying issues that gave rise to the protests have gone away.
Until last year, mainstream political discourse did not include nearly as much emphasis on such populist concerns as rising income inequality, tax policies that favor the rich, growing influence by large corporate interests in elections and the reckless deregulation of financial institutions that resulted in the 2008 crisis. It is hard to miss them now.
A growing anti-government movement consisting of nonviolent demonstrations as well as scattered rioting is beginning to threaten the Sudanese dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir, an indicted war criminal, who has ruled this large North African nation for twenty-three years. Beginning as protests against strict austerity measures imposed three weeks ago, the chants of the protesters have escalated to “the people want to overthrow the regime,” the line heard in recent uprisings in other Arab countries, including Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain and Syria.
In examining the political crises which have gripped Mali in recent months, it is important not to fall into simplistic analyses of dysfunctional or “failed” African states. Indeed, the Malian people have repeatedly demonstrated their ability to mobilize civil society and build stable democratic governance despite a history of enormous poverty, ethnic divisions, and foreign intervention.
Although the impulse to try to end the ongoing repression by the Syrian regime against its own people through foreign military intervention is understandable, it would be a very bad idea.
Empirical studies have repeatedly demonstrated that international military interventions in cases of severe repression actually exacerbate violence in the short term and can only reduce violence in the longer term if the intervention is impartial or neutral. Other studies demonstrate that foreign military interventions actually increase the duration of civil wars, making the conflicts longer and bloodier, and the regional consequences more serious, than if there were no intervention. In addition, military intervention would likely trigger a “gloves off” mentality that would dramatically escalate the violence on both sides.