On Veteran’s Day and Nonviolence

Today is veteran’s day. I am a veteran. My wife and I had a day off from work, so she treated me to a movie. I like war movies, so we went to see Fury.  It was basically two-hours worth of industrial scale inhumanity and slaughter; however, it did do its job of taking you away from reality for a while.

This got me to thinking about some things today. I did some two years and change in the army. As I have written previously, the army was where I first started to learn about conflict and its resolution in a systematic way. I am a man trained in violence. I have seen actual inhumanity and slaughter. I understand the havoc that violence wreaks on both its victims and its survivors. Yet, I still believe in the efficacy of violence.

This summer I did half of a training on nonviolence with Pax Christi. I only did half because I realized in the middle of the first day of training this it was not for me. I don’t have the complete faith in nonviolence that the leaders of this training did.

Some recent reading has helped to crystallize my thinking. I read an article, Nonviolent Resistance in Power Asymmetries by Véronique Dudouet, from The Berghof Handbook for Conflict Transformation (available at http://www.berghof-handbook.net/), that states in some circumstances, “nonviolent strategies might not have sufficient leverage to bring about necessary changes (p. 253).” The author writes about a very precise set of circumstances wherein one is trying to wrest power from another who will do anything to hold on to power. Wherein you are up against a mad dog with no morality or scruples; when you are fighting people with nothing left to lose.

I am convinced of the usefulness of nonviolent tactics. However, I am not convinced of their utility in all situations. Nonviolence is, in my opinion, a tool for the long-term. In the short-term, it is far too easy for precisely aimed violence to wipe out a fledgling nonviolent movement. There are mad dogs in the world; people who do not listen and cannot be reasoned with.

I believe that violence and nonviolence are both tools which can be deployed simultaneously, but must also be used appropriately. In the short term, violence can get you a few wins. In the long term you better have a plan to feed, clothe, and house people or you will not be able to win.

I know that violence absolutely works in the short-term, but without a long-term plan the winners in the game of short-term violence will always lose to somebody who is better at violence.

Published by

Leo

Leo Barrera Conflict Analyst

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