The E-News site has been inactive since February 2011 and may contain outdated information and/or broken links. For current and up-to-date Tufts news and information, please visit Tufts Now at
Tufts University e-news

Search  GO >

this site people
Tufts University Logo Bottom Search Bottom  
left side photo

An Alternative To War With Iraq

An Alternative To War With IraqNon-violent resistance - not a U.S. invasion - may be the best strategy for ousting Saddam Hussein, says an international relations expert and Tufts graduate.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [09.05.02] At first blush, nonviolent resistance could appear to be a relatively weak weapon against an authoritative regime like the one lead by Iraq's Saddam Hussein. But a Tufts graduate and expert on strategic nonviolent conflicts says the tactic has proven to be powerful in the past, and may offer a better solution than a U.S. led war.

"[Nonviolent resistance] does not typically begin by putting flowers in gun barrels and it does not end when protestors disperse to go home," Tufts graduate Peter Ackerman wrote in an opinion piece for Sojourner Magazine. "It involves the use of a panoply of forceful sanctions - strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience, disrupting the functions of government, even nonviolent sabotage - in accordance with a strategy for undermining an oppressor's pillars of support."

Often incorrectly associated with political protest, nonviolent resistance is not just about voicing dissent, wrote the graduate of Tufts' Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. "It is not about making a point, it's about taking power," he wrote.

The key, he wrote, is to undermine a regime's control by attacking its foundation of support.

"By first demonstrating that opposition is possible, peeling away the regime's residual public and outside support, quashing its legitimacy, driving up the costs of maintaining control, and overextending its repressive apparatus," Ackerman wrote in Sojourner.

While it is often dismissed in favor of military action, Ackerman wrote that nonviolent strategies deserve further consideration.

"[Many policymakers] don't know how to distinguish between what has popularly been regarded as 'nonviolence' and the strategic nonviolent action that has hammered authoritarian regimes to the point of defenestrating dictators and liberating people from many forms of subjugation," Ackerman, who chairs the Board of Overseers at Tufts' Fletcher School, wrote.

Throughout history, these types of efforts have accumulated a track record of success against entrenched regimes. According to Ackerman, Pinochet, Slobodan Milosevic and even Hitler's Nazis all backed down in the face of nonviolent resistance.

"No one doubted the willingness of Pinochet's regime ... to use terror as an instrument of repression in order to assure the regime's control: disappearances, brutal killings of dissidents and arbitrary arrests had silenced most dissenters," Ackerman wrote in Sojourner. "But once that silence was broken in 1983 in a way that the regime could not immediately suppress - through a one-day nationwide slowdown, followed by a nighttime city-wide banging of pots and pans in Santiago - the regime was no longer able to re-establish the same degree of fear in the population, and mammoth monthly protests were soon underway."

Non-violent strategies have even had previous success against Saddam Hussein, wrote the Tufts graduate, who co-authored the book "A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict."

Several years ago - fearing an uprising -- the Iraqi government sent troops to a gathering of tens of thousands of people during a religious occasion in the city of Karbala. "But they were so badly outnumbered by the civilians who came that they were effectively encircled - a graphic display of the limitations on Saddam's repressive apparatus if it were constrained to respond to incidents in all directions from Baghdad," Ackerman wrote.

While a relatively limited display of the power of nonviolent resistance, Ackerman wrote that suggests a more organized and sustained approach could be very effective.

"Strategic nonviolent action is not about being nice to your oppressor, much less having to rely on his niceness. It's about dissolving the foundations of his power and forcing him out," Ackerman wrote in Sojourner. "It is possible in Iraq."


Related Stories
Related Links
Featured Profile