Saturday, December 18, 2004

Does peaceful resistance work?

Many poeple will say "of course" look at ghandi - but there is still clearly somthing to dispute afterall indias independance was not entirely the result of Ghandi's actions there were also indian terrorists and the general trend for britain to abandon its empire.

Nothing is EVER solely the result of one thing in the political sphere. There are hundreds of equally valid "reasons" (necessary but not sufficient or contributory) why any event happened.

But for those who support terrorism as an answer in places like palestine and iraq will note that the western worlds focus on ghandi as hte reason for indian oindependance is in part propoganda to encourage others to try that avenue as opposed to terrorism. and indeed that is in part the case. BUT

A) In doing so they allow the supporters of resistance fighters to make themself the bad guy - in that they are the one wishing death (as a means to an end but it is ALWAYS a means to an end) to result from a situation and they are the ones convincing themselves to try to resolve it without death. In a debate like this if you are wiling to vigorously take the moral low ground based on pragmatism this is the same logic that leads to all the great evil people - "my enemy is bad (or at least I think so) therefore I must be as bad or worse to win" it is obvious where that leads.

B) The system creates a system where non violent resistance is more effective. i.e. after making hero’s of Ghandis - it will become much harder to kill a new Ghandi and there is more pressure to respect him and do what he says. In this sense it does not matter WHY they became important, how cynical the colonial powers may have been, the ball has started rolling and they cannot stop it. Most of them have convinced themselves of the validity of their own argument anyway.

C) In any bargaining position you can make yourself in a stronger position by escalating the conflict (and showing a greater disregard for your and their welfare). If it was implied that I would kill you if you did not give me a good deal on my groceries (for example, all you own) then I would probably get a good deal - Or I might not - in which case either you or I would have to deliver on the threat. If you accept that as a legitimate strategy then every negotiation will start to look like that as those with the least fears acquire more and more stuff and force those with the most fears to become desperate.
The logic of terrorism in a sense relies on the fact that so few people take it seriously.

D) If you have a terrorist organization and you win and become the government don’t be surprised if they run the country like a terrorist organization. If you have a peaceful political organization and they win they may well run the country like a peaceful political organization. Thus a country where independence was won by disordered violence is likely to be in a poor state – one where it was won by political means or better yet just granted will likely do better. As I noted before the existence of the peaceful organization creates an acceptable alternative that can be differentiated from the terrorist organizations and assumed to keep them under control when it has power.


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