Nonviolence key to successful revolution: ND Expert

Feb 08, 2011 By Joan Fallon

The social change fervor sweeping through Egypt and the Middle East is one of the most dramatic expressions of "people power" in history, says David Cortright, director of policy studies at the University of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.

“Never before have people in the region mobilized in such vast numbers to shake off the chains of autocracy. The ramifications of these events are widening every day. Algeria has announced reforms, Jordan’s King Abdullah has dismissed his government, and huge rallies continue in Yemen. History seems to be turning on a hinge.”

Cortright has taught nonviolent social change and peace studies at Notre Dame since 1989. He is the author or editor of 17 books, including “Peace: A History of Movements and Ideas” and “Uniting Against Terror: Cooperative Nonmilitary Responses to the Global Terrorist Threat," with George A. Lopez.

“The protests have been mostly nonviolent,” Cortright says. “The organizers and crowds in Cairo and other cities seem to know instinctively that armed struggle is futile. Many demonstrators have been attacked by thugs and security forces, but few have committed hostile acts. Reaction has come only after persistent physical attack by Mubarak supporters.

“The demonstrators are wise to emphasize nonviolent discipline, Cortright says. “Empirical studies show that civil resistance is twice as effective as armed struggle in achieving significant political change. Nonviolence is a practical requirement for winning the sympathy of bystanders and encouraging loyalty shifts within the military and police. In the velvet revolutions of eastern Europe and the ‘colored revolutions’ of Ukraine and other former Soviet republics, resisters won in part by convincing the military to remain neutral or side with the people.

“That lesson is evident in Tunisia,” Cortright says, "where the police openly joined the ranks of the resisters. In Egypt, demonstrators were urged to ‘hug a soldier’ as a way of saying that the struggle is against the dictatorship not rank and file soldiers. Some protestors waved from atop tanks. The military declared it would not use force ‘against our great people.’

“It’s too early to tell whether these events will lead to genuine democracy and a more peaceful future for the region,” Cortright says. “The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist parties are likely to assume a larger political role, but this need not be a cause for alarm. Rather than spreading extremism, as some fear, a more inclusive political process in Egypt and other Arab countries might reduce the appeal of extremism—allowing people to voice their grievances through political rather than military means.”

Explore further: Liberal democracy is possible in Muslim-majority countries

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Modern society made up of all types

Nov 04, 2010

Modern society has an intense interest in classifying people into ‘types’, according to a University of Melbourne Cultural Historian, leading to potentially catastrophic life-changing outcomes for those typed – ...

Unions make both members and nonmembers happier

Nov 05, 2010

It’s no coincidence that American workers have never been more dissatisfied with their jobs, and labor unions’ membership keeps dropping, according to a new study co-authored by University of Notre Dame political scienti ...

Recommended for you

Feeling bad at work can be a good thing

18 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Research by the University of Liverpool suggests that, contrary to popular opinion, it can be good to feel bad at work, whilst feeling good in the workplace can also lead to negative outcomes.

3Qs: Citizen journalism in Ferguson

19 hours ago

Tensions have escalated in Ferguson, Missouri, following the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, by a white police officer. The incident has led to peaceful protests ...

Social inequality worsens in New Zealand

19 hours ago

Research by Dr Lisa Marriott, an associate professor in Victoria's School of Accounting and Commercial Law, and Dr Dalice Sim, Statistical Consultant in the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research, builds ...

User comments : 0