Think-tank suggests non-violent strategy on Iraq

 A theological think-tank has today pointed out that all the options have not yet been exhausted for removing Sadaam Hussein from power, and has called for consideration of a 'Third Way' that does not involve military action. One suggestion that is currently being debated in the USA is for the encouragement and resourcing by the West of civilian-based, non-violent resistance by the Iraqi people. This would be developed and applied in accordance with a strategy to undermine Sadaam's basis of power and lead to his downfall. There is a substantial historical precedent for such action. Some of the most convincing and blood-less regime change in recent years has also come from largely non-violent action. In 1996 Ferdinand Marcos for example was toppled in a largely non-violent revolution. Historically non-violent resistance involves the use of a range of forceful sanctions -such as strikes, boycotts, civil disobedience, disrupting the functions of government, even non-violent sabotage. This can all be incorporated within a strategy for undermining an oppressor's pillars of support, resourced and supported by the West. Such a strategy rests on the premise that an authoritarian ruler like Sadaam Hussein requires certain services or benefits from the population. Those benefits can be withheld and its ability repressively to compel a population's compliance is not infinite. The West already has already set a significant precedent for encouraging internal resistance against oppressive regimes. However, when violent resistance has been the goal, such as when the CIA helped to establish the al-Quaeda network, the long-term consequences have been undesirable. With non-violent resistance such risks are minimised and the financial costs are far lower. NGO's have already pioneered strategies of non-violent resistance with significant effect. In March 2000 the US based International Republican Institute (IRI) taught activists in Serbia how to strike, communicate with symbols, how to hide from police, respond to interrogation and infiltrate a regimes 'pillars of support' such as the police, media and judiciary. The 'Otpor' members, numbering 70,000 are credited with 'mass underground movement that stood at the disciplined core of the hidden revolution that really changed Serbia'. The conditions for encouraging non-violent resistance in Iraq are particularly favourable for the following reasons: 1 Millions of Iraquis detest Sadaam Hussein and as such are a huge resource for a non-violent movement of resistance. 2 Sadaam is not supported by an entrenched party system. His hold on power is reliant on personal loyalties, patronage and penalties. The frequent reports of his repression are a sign of the disaffection that his style of leadership continues to breed. 3 There are already examples of non-violent resistance in Iraq. A few years ago, in Karbala, tens of thousands of Muslims gathered for an annual religious occasion, the regime sent in troops because it feared disorder or an uprising. 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 had to respond to incidents in all directions from Baghdad. 4 Saddam's regime is particularly vulnerable when it comes to oil. In fact the regime cannot function without oil revenues, and there is a limited number of civilian oil workers who, if they were to abandon their jobs, could create a crisis by themselves. It has been suggested that a non-violent strategy could work in the following way: 1 A campaign against Saddam would began with civilian-based incidents of disruption 2 Incidents would be dispersed around the country and so not offer convenient targets for repression 3 Attempt to crack down would have to depend on the outermost, least reliable members of Saddam's repressive apparatus which would be overextended. 4 The realization that Saddam was being opposed openly would begin almost immediately to lessen the fear of engaging in further, more systematic acts of resistance. 5 As opposition became more serious or visible, this would offer to dissenting elements within the regime a place to which to defect, once events reached a crescendo Speaking about a strategy for undermining Sadaam's regime through encouraging and resourcing non-violent resistance Ekklesia's Director Jonathan Bartley said; "at present debate is polarised between those who want to topple Sadaam militarily and those who prefer a strategy of containment. The Third Way has been conspicuous by its absence, but there are other strategies that could be employed." He continued: "Military action can not be a last resort until the other options have been tried and tested, and they clearly haven't. A strategy of non-violent resistance has worked in the past and might well have significant success. Given the relatively low costs involved and potentially huge benefits, such a strategy must be tried before any last resort to war. source: Ekklesia

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