Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Non-violent Resistance: The razor's edge to a lasting peace

"The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard." - W. Somerset Maugham, The Razor's Edge (1944)

Figure copied from this page
The Bush Doctrine, first proposed by Paul Wolfowitz in 1992, and declared U.S. foreign policy in 2002 in a National Security Strategy (NSS) document summarized in the Frontline program, The War Behind Closed Doors:
America will exploit its military and economic power to encourage "free and open societies." It states for the first time that the U.S. will never allow its military supremacy to be challenged as it was during the Cold War. And the NSS insists that when America's vital interests are at stake, it will act alone, if necessary.
 Applying this doctrine in the Middle East created more chaos and new threats to American national security combined with a debate over torture and "enhanced interrogation techniques" that negatively impacted the soft power of the United States and the Western world in general. It was a disaster.

The Obama Doctrine, first addressed by Charles A. Kupchan in 2001, and fully fleshed out in his 2010 book,  How Enemies Become Friends The Sources of Stable Peace was summarized by José Azel in the critical May 6, 2015 article The Resurrection of Neville Chamberlain into four steps:
It must begin, according to Kupchan, by making concessions to our enemies in an act of “unilateral accommodation.” These concessions must be “unusual and costly” to signal benign intent. [...] The second phase entails the practice of “reciprocal restraint” where the adversary nations walk away from rivalry, peace breaks out, and geopolitical competition gives way to cooperation.[...] “Social integration” and “the generation of new narratives and identities” are the third and fourth phases of Kupchan’s sequence towards stable peace.
Kupchan in a April 2011 article in Friedrich Ebert Stiftung attempts to refute the charge that this policy is a version of neo-appeasement arguing:
It follows that talking to the enemy is not appeasement  – as is often claimed by engagement’s critics – but, under the right circumstances, good diplomacy. To be sure,  the effort to pursue diplomatic accommodation with an  adversary may not work. The target state may refuse to  reciprocate the initiator’s signals of benign intent, ensuring that confrontation continues.
The trouble with Kupchan's argument is that what he is advocating goes well beyond "talking to the enemy" into what he describes as "unilateral accommodation" setting the stage for "reciprocal restraint." Now when one government is making "unilateral accommodations" and the other side is declaring victory and maintaining an aggressive posture in the real world, while talking the talk of accommodation in diplomatic exchanges, it does share a disturbing similarity to appeasement policies of the 1930s that did not lead to peace but was a precursor to a major war that claimed tens of millions of lives. This approach tries to ignore the underlying conflict and hope that diplomacy will succeed in redefining the relationship. President Ronald Reagan in 1983 gave a powerful refutation of this approach stating:
".... I urge you to beware the temptation ..., to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of any evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong, good and evil."
Both foreign policies have not and will not serve the just interests of the United States because they fail to navigate the narrow path, the razor's edge, to a lasting peace. The last American presidency that avoided a major war and made inroads to peace, that led to the dismantling of nuclear weapons for the first time, was Ronald Reagan. The policy pursued in Eastern Europe and with the Soviet Union was one of engagement, but it also succeeded by recognizing the underlying conflict and ideological differences behind it. The Reagan administration used economic sanctions, and the bully pulpit to denounce the crackdown on the Solidarity movement in Poland. Although the Solidarity Movement was a home grown and spontaneous nonviolent movement international solidarity and sanctions protesting the movement's repression helped.

Gene Sharp in 2003 published a monograph There Are Realistic Alternatives that recognizes the underlying nature of conflict and its desirability:
It is important to recognize that conflict in society and politics is inevitable and, in many cases, desirable.  Some conflicts can be resolved by mild methods, such as negotiation, dialogue, and conciliation—methods that involve compromise.  These are feasible when the issues at stake are not fundamental.  Even then, the resolution of a conflict by negotiation is more often influenced by the relative power capacities of the contenders than by reasoned joint assessment of where justice lies. However, in many conflicts fundamental issues are, or are believed to be, at stake.  These are “acute conflicts.”  They are not deemed suitable for any resolution that involves compromise. In acute conflicts at least one side regards it as necessary and good to wage the conflict against hostile opponents. 
 The end of the Soviet empire in Eastern Europe in 1989 and the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991 was achieved primarily through nonviolent means. Ironically, the one country that descended into a blood bath, Romania, and saw its transition to democracy delayed was the one in which engagement with the dictatorship was maintained. Gene Sharp, unlike the amoral realpolitik of Henry Kissinger recognizes that there is a moral dimension that cannot be ignored:
It is unreasonable to aim for a “win- win” resolution.  Brutal dictators and perpetrators of genocide do not deserve to win anything. We have many decades of evidence that violence in the conduct of conflicts is not eliminated by protests against such violence. In acute conflicts, the majority of people will not reject war and other violence because they believe, or are told, that such violence violates ethical or religious principles.  Adherence to expectations to the contrary is unrealistic. [...] There has to be a substitute means of conducting the conflict powerfully with the chance of success equivalent to or greater than the violent option. Of necessity, such a functional alternative must be able to deal satisfactorily with the “hard cases” for which violence has in the past been believed to be required.  These “hard cases” include conflicts against dictatorships, foreign invasions and occupations, internal usurpations, oppression, attempted genocide, and mass expulsions and killings.
Professor Sharp goes on to offer an alternative that walks the narrow path to a lasting peace using the means of nonviolent resistance:
In a great variety of situations, across centuries and cultural barriers, another technique of struggle has at times been applied.  This other technique has not been based on turning the other cheek, but on the ability to be stubborn and to resist powerful opponents powerfully. Throughout human history, in a multitude of conflicts one side has fought - not by violence, but - by psychological, social, economic, or political methods, or a combination of these.  This type of conflict has been waged not only when the issues were relatively limited and the opponents relatively decent.  Many times this alter- native form of struggle has been applied when fundamental  issues have been at stake and when ruthless opponents have been willing and able to apply extreme repression.  That repression has included executions, beatings, arrests, imprisonments, and mass slaughters. Despite such repression, when the resisters have persisted in fighting with only their chosen nonviolent weapons, they have some- times triumphed. This technique is called nonviolent action or nonviolent struggle.  This is “the other ultimate sanction.”  In acute conflicts it potentially can serve as an alternative to war and other violence.
 Furthermore over the course of the past century nonviolent action has proven, not only to be an effective method of struggle especially against the most brutal of dictatorships, but more effective than violent action. This is the third way, that neither engages in preemptive wars or appeasing brutal tyrants, and is the best hope to a world of freedom and justice which is necessary for a lasting peace. Today, Americans have an opportunity to influence the future of U.S. foreign policy along this path with the Global Magnitsky Act that holds torturers and kleptocrats accountable nonviolently through targeted sanctions.

Figure taken from the Vernal Project

No comments:

Post a Comment