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[liberationtech] Very interesting NYT oped comparing violence vs non violence

miriyam asfar miriyama at
Thu Mar 10 10:30:54 PST 2011

Hello list,
Yes interesting. The old marxist adagio 'people make [their own] history but
not in self-chosen circumastances' immideatly comes to mind, though
acknowledging that Mubarak failed also/mainly because the movement in Egypt
had some experience [at least a decade since the first big tahrir protest in
solidarity with Palestine and against Egypts collaboration right when the
initfada broke out in 2000] to build on could help understand the difference
in grasping the strategy and tactics. But there is something very
inappropriate in discussing non-violence with reference to US
State-Department advice, the very people that base their policy on the logic
of what is good for US geo-political interests that led to the consolidation
of power for lunatics like Mubarak and Ghadaffi.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Yosem Companys <companys at>
Date: Thu, Mar 10, 2011 at 10:47 AM
Subject: [liberationtech] Very interesting NYT oped comparing violence vs
non violence
To: Liberation Technologies <liberationtech at>

March 9, 2011

Give Peaceful Resistance a Chance


Middletown, Conn.

THE rebellion in Libya stands out among the recent unrest in the
Middle East for its widespread violence: unlike the protesters in
Tunisia or Egypt, those in Libya quickly gave up pursuing nonviolent
change and became an armed rebellion.

And while the fighting in Libya is far from over, it’s not too early
to ask a critical question: which is more effective as a force for
change, violent or nonviolent resistance? Unfortunately for the Libyan
rebels, research shows that nonviolent resistance is much more likely
to produce results, while violent resistance runs a greater risk of

Consider the Philippines. Although insurgencies attempted to overthrow
Ferdinand Marcos during the 1970s and 1980s, they failed to attract
broad support. When the regime did fall in 1986, it was at the hands
of the People Power movement, a nonviolent pro-democracy campaign that
boasted more than two million followers, including laborers, youth
activists and Catholic clergy.

Indeed, a study I recently conducted with Maria J. Stephan, now a
strategic planner at the State Department, compared the outcomes of
hundreds of violent insurgencies with those of major nonviolent
resistance campaigns from 1900 to 2006; we found that over 50 percent
of the nonviolent movements succeeded, compared with about 25 percent
of the violent insurgencies.

Why? For one thing, people don’t have to give up their jobs, leave
their families or agree to kill anyone to participate in a nonviolent
campaign. That means such movements tend to draw a wider range of
participants, which gives them more access to members of the regime,
including security forces and economic elites, who often sympathize
with or are even relatives of protesters.

What’s more, oppressive regimes need the loyalty of their personnel to
carry out their orders. Violent resistance tends to reinforce that
loyalty, while civil resistance undermines it. When security forces
refuse orders to, say, fire on peaceful protesters, regimes must
accommodate the opposition or give up power — precisely what happened
in Egypt.

This is why the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, took such great
pains to use armed thugs to try to provoke the Egyptian demonstrators
into using violence, after which he could have rallied the military
behind him.

But where Mr. Mubarak failed, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi succeeded: what
began as peaceful movement became, after a few days of brutal
crackdown by his corps of foreign militiamen, an armed but
disorganized rebel fighting force. A widely supported popular
revolution has been reduced to a smaller group of armed rebels
attempting to overthrow a brutal dictator. These rebels are at a major
disadvantage, and are unlikely to succeed without direct foreign

If the other uprisings across the Middle East remain nonviolent,
however, we should be optimistic about the prospects for democracy
there. That’s because, with a few exceptions — most notably Iran —
nonviolent revolutions tend to lead to democracy.

Although the change is not immediate, our data show that from 1900 to
2006, 35 percent to 40 percent of authoritarian regimes that faced
major nonviolent uprisings had become democracies five years after the
campaign ended, even if the campaigns failed to cause immediate regime
change. For the nonviolent campaigns that succeeded, the figure
increases to well over 50 percent.

The good guys don’t always win, but their chances increase greatly
when they play their cards well. Nonviolent resistance is about
finding and exploiting points of leverage in one’s own society. Every
dictatorship has vulnerabilities, and every society can find them.

Erica Chenoweth, an assistant professor of government at Wesleyan
University, is the co-author of the forthcoming “Why Civil Resistance
Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict.”
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Oxford Internet Institute
miriyam.aouragh at

"Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the
world." ...Howard Zinn 1922-2010
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