Great Article by Dr. Erica Chenoweth in Foreign Policy, Think Again: Nonviolent Resistance

Resisting the temptation to take up arms against a dictator isn't just the moral thing to do -- it's also the most effective way to win.

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Think Again: Nonviolent Resistance

"Nonviolent Resistance Is Admirable but Ineffective."

Hardly. In the current geopolitical moment, it may seem hard to argue that a nonviolent uprising is a better tool for uprooting a dictator than the violent kind. Armed rebels, backed by NATO air power, are on the verge of ending four decades of despotic rule by Muammar al-Qaddafi in Libya. Meanwhile to the east, Syria's Bashar al-Assad has killed with impunity more than 2,200 members of a mostly nonviolent resistance to his family's long-lived rule.

Arguing in favor of the Syrians' tactics, and against the Libyans', would seem counterintuitive -- but for the evidence. The truth is that, from 1900 to 2006, major nonviolent resistance campaigns seeking to overthrow dictatorships, throw out foreign occupations, or achieve self-determination were more than twice as successful as violent insurgencies seeking the same goals. The recent past alone suggests as much; even before the Arab Spring, nonviolent campaigns in Serbia (2000), Madagascar (2002), Ukraine (2004), Lebanon (2005), and Nepal (2006) succeeded in ousting regimes from power.

The reason for this is that nonviolent campaigns typically appeal to a much broader and diverse constituency than violent insurgencies. For one thing, the bar to action is lower: Potential recruits to the resistance need to overcome fear, but not their moral qualms about using violence against others. Civil resistance offers a variety of lower-risk tactics -- stay-aways (where people vacate typically populated areas), boycotts, and go-slows (where people move at half-pace at work and in the streets) -- that encourage people to participate without making enormous personal sacrifices. This year's peaceful uprising in Egypt saw the mobilization of men, women, children, the elderly, students, laborers, Islamists, Christians, rich, and poor -- a level of participation that none of Egypt's armed militant organizations in recent memory could claim.


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Tags: Erica Chenoweth, nonviolence, resistance, revolution

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Thanks Erica. Keep up the work and writing. I reference your material in my teaching nonviolence. Your work is key in changing hearts and minds.

Great piece indeed! A question though: Is it possible to realise mass action without violence in developing nations rocked by multiple insecurities?


Great article,yes non-violance way could uproot the dictatorship of any country.I don't understand how many lives have been lost in Iraq , Afganistan and recent ousted of Gaddafi regime.

Also how far it is justifiable to support rebel fighters to fight againist Gaddafi regime? We saw people using guns and moving everywhere the street of Libya , and it will be very hard and biggest challenges to disarm them.


Inspiring article!

I think mass action or not without violence is not always good. I believe Rwandan might be a good example to understand how, -implicitly, or explicitly, the UN essentially, is adapting its approach to deal with the complexity of the arab spring. In April 8, 1994, it is not the use of nonviolence that end 100 days of slaughter, the Tutsi genocide. In May 7, 1998, the former U.N Secretary-General, Kofi Annan said:

 "... The world must deeply repent this failure. Rwanda's tragedy was the world's tragedy. All of us who cared about Rwanda, all of us who witnessed its suffering, fervently wish that we could have prevented the genocide. Looking back now, we see the signs which then were not recognized. Now we know that what we did was not nearly enough--not enough to save Rwanda from itself, not enough to honor the ideals for which the United Nations exists. We will not deny that, in their greatest hour of need, the world failed the people of Rwanda ..."

I think many countries from developing nations essentially, including the Congo, need the United Nations to do enough to honor the ideals for which this institution exists. 


Sure Erica!, I think your article is absolutely fantastic. A clear support of humanitarian intervention operations, be it multilateral or unilateral in current post-westphilian era, if we're to prevent tyrants from masking behind the international law of non-intervention in the internal affairs of UN member countries (UN Charter Article 2, clause 4) to commit egregious acts against their own people. Haile Selassie (1892-1975) once observed: 

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who 

 could have acted; the indifference of those who should

 have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when

 it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to

 triumph”…[This is a call of responsibility, placed on all of

 us to help prevent, react and build our world]

(Zimbardo, 2008, p. 319).

Dr. Appiah-Marfo


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