Showing posts with label Man-with-only-a-hammer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Man-with-only-a-hammer. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Has Dr. Gene Sharp, "Clausewitz of Nonviolence" Been the Biggest Inspiration and Guide for Nonviolent Revolutions for 3 Decades?

Has Dr. Gene Sharp, "Clausewitz of Nonviolence" Been the Biggest Inspiration and Guide for Nonviolent Revolutions for 3 Decades?

That's the question I've been asking myself since this morning, when I first heard of him in an NPR interview?  He has written perhaps a dozen or more books, most of which can be downloaded online.  And the movements in Libya and Egyptian may have learned (largely by way of Serbians who struggled against Slobodan Milosevic) their style of peaceful regime change from Sharp.

Dr. Sharp, who gives much credit to Gandhi, created the Albert Einstein Institution which has actively trained and advised people all over the world who are trying to free themselves, and  has written "how to" books like 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action. (The Iranian regime accused their own pro-democracy activists of using over 100 of the 198 methods).

It is too much for me to digest right now, so I'll just suggest a couple of links.  One is the a New York Times article which provides a concise but detailed account of the workings of the Egyptian revolution so far: A Tunisian-Egyptian Link That Shook Arab History.
You can read a very recent short interview with Sharp on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty., or a longer article on him here.
  Oddly, there are a couple of very interesting reflections on Sharp in Scientific American (or their web site at least) by science journalist John Horgan:

How George W. Bush rejected my "Sharp" idea for countering terrorism


Egypt's revolution vindicates Gene Sharp's theory of nonviolent activism.

The first SciAm article points out that Sharp was once funded by DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) who subsequently, unfortunately, ignored him.

This DARPA episode, and the Bush admin's rejection of Horgan's "outside the box" idea of distributing Sharp's writings to "fundamentalist Muslims and others who might be at risk of becoming terrorists" -- these two cases illustrate, I think, the self-defeating attitude looked at in "(What Was the Cold War?) The Man With Only a Hammer".

To me, it seems very important that Dr. Sharp does not advocate non-violence for its "virtuousness", but rather because it is most effective.  He says
Peaceful protest is best, he says — not for any moral reason, but because violence provokes autocrats to crack down. “If you fight with violence,” Mr. Sharp said, “you are fighting with your enemy’s best weapon, and you may be a brave but dead hero.”
I might add that the nonviolent approach as pursued in Egypt, with all the discipline and meticulous planning it requires complements the forging of a new structure to replace the oppressive regime, while violent revolutions too often leave things in chaos, which then is replaced by a regime which is either naturally oppressive, or, in the course of turning the chaos into something orderly becomes oppressive.

At the moment, Gene Sharp's books prices have gone into the stratosphere, as they were mostly out of print, and he has suddenly gotten so much attention.

It may be best to see what free downloads are available at The Albert Einstein Institution web page.