I've been given examples of non-violence having worked against brutal regimes in South Africa, Czechoslovakia, Chile and eleven other places. The person generous in tweeting me these examples mentioned Erica Chenoweth's work, page 33.
Here's my response:
South Africa: Non-violence worked in South Africa after decades and the rise to political power in 1989 by F. W. de Klerk. F.W. de Klerk in 1989 was not al-Assad in 2012, and let us hope we don't have to wait twenty years to be rid of Assad.
Czechoslovakia: Poland can be included in this example. The regimes in these two countries fell as part of what was sweeping the Warsaw Pact nations. Non-violence was the right tactic then. The appeal was to something broader and more civil than the Assad family and regime.
Chile: You can include Argentina with the example of Chile. In Chile, Pinochet took power in 1973. Transition to a peaceful democracy came in 1990. Seventeen years of patience can be credited. Can the situation in Syria today be compared with Chile under Pinochet in 1983, ten years after he took power? Hell no!
If the Assad regime stopped its aggressions against neighborhoods, an argument for armed self-defence would be diminished. The argument depends upon the nature of the conflict, and it's easy to side with those fighting for regime change. It's a decision to be made by the people under attack, not by people in Washington DC. The issue facing the Obama administration is whether to help those asking for help. Refusing that help based on a big anti-violence abstraction is not a good argument.
My best to those who have who have chosen armed self-defense, and to those who continue to demonstrate without weapons, and to those in their homes or driven from their homes and asking for help.
Original piece: here.
Copyright © 2012 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.