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Zelensky's Fatal Mistake

There are ten times more homicides in the United States than in other Western and non-Western countries. Still, it is reasonably safe in some areas, namely in neighborhoods and villages where many Quakers live. Quakers have no weapons in the house. A large-scale disarmament of American citizens is the obvious measure to drastically reduce the number of murders, as well as shooting incidents in schools and supermarkets. However, this proposal is unfeasible because it sounds so tough to defend one's woman and child with firearms against villains and because the possession of weapons is enshrined in the constitution. Disarmament will only be possible in a new era where people have matured and when a new spirit blows over society.

Nonviolent resistance is more effective

The question that I want to investigate in this contribution is whether the non-violence of Quakers would also be a solution for conflicts in general and for Ukraine in particular. For example, if the people want to overthrow a dictator, chase away foreign occupiers or separate the region in which they live from the country. Research shows that violent resistance from the population only leads to success in these conflicts in seven percent of the cases. Furthermore, the prevailing opinion is that the effectiveness of nonviolent resistance is even lower.

As good scientists, American political scientists Chenoweth and Stephan did not just assume that this last assumption is correct. Their book ''Why civil resistance works: The strategic logic of nonviolent conflict' ' is based on a study of 320 conflicts between 1900 and 2006 about which experts were asked, based on a number of criteria, to what extent resistance led to the desired result. They showed that nonviolent resistance is twice as effective as violent resistance. Nonviolent resistance is defined as actions by unarmed civilians using different strategies to achieve their goals. These actions can range from boycott , strike, demonstration or simply stay away. These citizens are usually brought together from an organization. Nonviolent resistance can be long-lasting and evolve in several phases.

The relative success of nonviolent resistance has several causes: in nonviolent action more citizens participate and the resistance can last longer; the actions are very visible; the power of the ruling class is undermined if, for example, the support of business, civil servants, the media, the police or the army is lost. If the government takes very severe repressive action, there is a 90 percent chance that the resistance will fail, but if it is successful, nonviolent resistance is twice as likely as violent resistance. In the first case, there is more moral outrage among the public.

In the case of violent resistance, citizens receive financial and military support from abroad in 35 percent of the cases . In the case of non-violent resistance, this is only 10 percent. That support for violent resistance increases the chance of success by 15 percent. Support for nonviolent resistance has no effect. In the latter case, the aid can undermine resistance if it makes leaders richer or if one has no sympathy for the country supporting it.

Chenoweth and Stephan also examined differences in longer-term effects. The general trend is that violent resistance against a dictator leads to a new dictatorship and that nonviolent resistance offers a greater chance of democratization. The violent resistance of the soviets against the tsarist empire resulted in Stalinism. Mahatma Gandhi's nonviolent resistance to British colonial rulers made India the largest democracy in the world.

The Prague Spring

What do these findings say about the war in Ukraine ? We can compare that situation with Czechoslovakia under Dubcek. In 1968, the Russians invaded this country to prevent the 'Prague Spring' from resulting in a Western-style democracy. Dubcek knew he would lose and be killed by the Russians. To limit the damage, he ordered the army to withdraw to the barracks so that a military conflict was avoided. To his surprise, the people massively resisted in a nonviolent way. Morale among the Russian troops was undermined. Negotiations ensued and Dubcek could stay on condition that he allowed less freedom. This was a preparation for the real, also nonviolent revolution twenty years later.

The Ukraine Winter

It is striking that in 2004 and 2014 the Ukrainians were able to depose dictatorial leaders with non-violent resistance. Even after the invasion of the Donbas and Crimea, the majority of the people preferred non-violent resistance. Zelensky, however, opted for armed resistance. This provides a lot of spectacle for this former actor, but at the cost of the lives of tens of thousands of young men, thousands of civilian casualties, an enormous destruction of the country and an economic blow that Ukraine will not overcome in the next ten or twenty years. The Ukrainian winter does not seem to bring much good. Zelensky got the support of the United States (read: the gun lobby) and the EU as an obedient serf fell for it too. If we understand history well, then in Ukraine , even if Zelensky achieves his goal, a new dictatorship will follow.

How different it would have been had Zelensky not made this fatal mistake and acted as Dubcek did in Czechoslovakia at the time. There would have been no bloodshed. No bombing. There might have been massive nonviolent resistance. The already low morale of the Russian troops would have bottomed out. An enemy image with intense hatred between two brother nations that will last for several generations would have been avoided.

Unfortunately, Western politicians have learned nothing from history. If Germany had been a sovereign country that could determine its own foreign policy, the Germans might have pressured Zelensky to opt for nonviolent resistance. The economic interests for Germany are enormous. In many countries, poverty will increase as a result of inflation and we will have a cold winter. There is also the chance that Russia will become so frustrated that the war in Ukraine could spread to all of Europe. If this apocalyptic disaster occurs, the US and the European Union will be jointly responsible for it.

see also: The lesson of the Prophet

Comments (send to juliaan.vanacker@gmail.comif you submit a comment or a short essay. All reactions will be included except insults and what incites racism or violence.

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   © Juliaan Van Acker 2022