Whether non-violence or armed self-defence is the best tactic depends upon circumstances. The non-violence practiced by the movement led by Martin Luther King Jr was an appeal to the better angels of the whole of US citizenry, and Mr. King had some confidence in the US legal system. During King's leadership in the struggle for human rights there were also blacks in Mississippi who took up arms to defend their lives and property against an invasion of their neighborhhood by the Ku Klux Klan, and it worked. The Klan went away. (Do an online search for Griffin McLaurin.)
There was also the decision by the Clinton administration to reverse a long-standing non-violent approach to ending the war in Bosnia – a change from his previous position expressed in his statement that "bad things" would happened there "until these folks get tired of killing each other." Serbs around Sarajevo were shelling that city and killing people. And there was the massacre that had taken place at Srebenicia. Clinton arranged for air strikes by NATO between August 30 and September 14, 1995, and this induced the Serbs to negotiate an end to the war in Bosnia. In December 1995 a settlement was signed at Dayton, Ohio.
Syria in not Bosnia. The violence in Syria has a different context than the conflict in Bosnia. Today, some are assessing the conflict in Syria and advocating arming the Free Syrian Army. Some others are opposed. Some want to wait, hoping Assad will eventually stop his assault on opponents or that eventually his regime will fall apart. They are outsiders living in comfort while men doing the right thing and defecting from Assad's forces are being hunted down. It would be a great day if Assad actually stopped attacking the neighborhoods of his opponents and gave them an opportunity to participate peacefully in choosing their own political leaders. But meanwhile, in my opinion, we should not deny opponents of Assad the ability to defend themselves on the grounds that has been sarcastically described as " ..oh well, the future is uncertain so let's not help the Syrian revolution. You never know, bad stuff could happen."
Copyright © 2012 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.