Alternatives to War from the Bottom Up
More than at any other time in history, a strong case can be made on pragmatic, utilitarian grounds that war is no longer necessary. Nonviolent statecraft need not be the dream of pacifists and dreamy idealists. It is within our reach.
Simply opposing war and documenting its tragic consequences is not enough. We need to be able to put forward credible alternatives, particularly in the case of efforts to rationalize war for just causes, such as ending dictatorships and occupations, engaging in self-defense, and protecting those subjected to genocide and massacres.
Some states have rationalized arming revolutionary movements that are fighting dictatorships. Some have even rationalized intervening militarily on these movements’ behalf in the name of advancing democracy. However, there are other, more effective means to bring down dictatorship.
It was not the leftist guerrillas of the New People’s Army who brought down the U.S.-backed Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines. It was nuns praying the rosary in front of the regime’s tanks, and the millions of other nonviolent demonstrators who brought greater Manila to a standstill.
It was not the eleven weeks of bombing that brought down Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, the infamous “butcher of the Balkans.” It was a nonviolent resistance movement—led by young students whose generation had been sacrificed in a series of bloody military campaigns against neighboring Yugoslav republics—that was able to mobilize a large cross-section of the population to rise up against a stolen election.
It was not the armed wing of the African National Congress that brought majority rule to South Africa. It was workers, students, and township dwellers who—through the use of strikes, boycotts, the creation of alternative institutions, and other acts of defiance—made it impossible for the apartheid system to continue.
It was not NATO that brought down the communist regimes of Eastern Europe or freed the Baltic republics from Soviet control. It was Polish dockworkers, East German churchgoers, Estonian folksingers, Czech intellectuals, and millions of ordinary citizens who faced down the tanks with their bare hands and no longer recognized the legitimacy of Communist Party leaders.
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Zunes, Stephen. 2015. Alternatives to War from the Bottom Up. Tikkun 30(3): 29.