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Thread: Violent Non-State Actors

  1. #1
    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Default Nation state and non-nation state actors

    Moderator at work

    The first eight posts were in a separate thread, but have been merged into this - they share a common theme Violent Non-State Actors (ends).


    I picked a project recently based on the fact I don't know squat about it. My research questions is

    "Can the nation states created by the treaties and tradition of Westphalia respond adequately to non-nation state actors and the rise of a corporate state environment, and what are those impacts on homeland security"

    My thesis is "The fundamental and traditional expectations of nation states are in conflict with the reasonable and prudent execution of homeland security in an era of rising non-nation state actors".

    Kind of tough to prove in five to seven pages but heck.....

    I have materials spanning from Clausewitz to Robb but I'm sure I'm missing something. If you have any favorite sources that might be used I'd be all ears. There has been some work along these lines and I'm sure I'll stumble across an entire conference proceeding but I'm learning. This is my test pass at framing a much larger question within my discipline.

    Harassment expected, help hoped for.... Let the flogging begin.
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 09-07-2013 at 08:52 PM. Reason: Add mods note
    Sam Liles
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    Default Some very minimal help. Maybe

    van Crevelds Transformation of War (you probably already have this on your list) and his 1995 (?) The Rise and Fall of the State (or something like that)

    There is one or more other books on the tip of my tongue but as I am in DC I don't have my book shelf behind me to swivel round and peruse. Sorry.

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    You may find the following of interest:

    Philip Bobbitt; The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace and the Course of History

    Precis from Amazon.co.uk:

    'Bobbitt posits that certain wars should be deemed epochal--that is, seen as composed of many "smaller" wars. For example, according to Bobbitt the epochal war of the 20th century began in 1914 and ended with the collapse of communism in 1990. These military affairs--and their subsequent "ultimate" peace agreements--have caused, each in their own way, revolutionary reconstructions of the idea and actuality of statehood and, following, of relationships between these various new entities. Of these reconstructions (including the princely state, the kingly state, and the nation-state), Bobbitt is most interested in the current incarnation, which he calls the market-state: one whose borders are scuffed and hazy at best (certainly compared to earlier territorial markers) and whose strengths, weaknesses, citizens, and enemies roam across cyberspace rather than plains and valleys. The Shield of Achilles is massive and demanding.'

    Not sure whether Bobbitt or van Creveld connect to your hypothesis about 'homeland security' per se, but they both get at the state side of the equation.

    Given the focus on homeland security, some of the literature on globalization and its impact on the state might be of interest. I am afraid that I am not particularly familiar with this set of literature, and so cannot really recommend anything specific. But Susan Strange was one of the early writers on glob'n and the state.

    Hope this is of some little help.

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    Default Why the focus on the military?

    My impression is that you are focusing your research on military classics. If so, why? Isn't this a political problem?

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    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Thanks to all. I have a copy of both Van Crevalads work on the way that I've be eagerly waiting for.

    I have been looking at globalization and subjects newer than the classics such as Robb's new book. I need to be able to tie traditional nation states to new politcal paradigms. The methods of conflict are part of the shifting political landscape. From the stand point of homeland security the original concept of homeland security was anti-terrorism (stateless actors), and now there more of an all hazards aproach to how it works. There is some work on the topic, but from what I've read so far not much.

    From my notes.

    How does the nation state respond and what happens when the adversary is just as capable as the state?

    The traditional state has certain expectations found in doctrine and law in how it acts on agression, but what happens when those expectations aren't well founded?

    Robb, talks about superior adversaries that can spend little and create massive economic loss. How does that financial asymetry effect homeland security?

    Lind, Hammes and others talk about generational warfare but is it possible those same types of generational aspects are found in civil and homeland defense?

    Have we instantiated through conflicting requirements inapropriate responses or inefectual responses as a nations state towards homeland security?

    There ... now you have all one page of my notes.... I won't show you the doodles of me shooting arrows at myself.
    Sam Liles
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    Council Member Brian Hanley's Avatar
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    Default non-state as capable as the state

    The underlying question is, "What does a VNSA (violent non-state actor) require in order to be as capable as the state?" A corollary is, "What does it mean to be as capable as the state?" I'd say the second is a combination of ideology and indoctrination. The first is an ability to cause death equal to the state. Ideology is always primary.

    We see with Islamism (also with ELF and the Aum cult, but on a much smaller scale) the ability to serve up a motivating ideology and then follow it with death dealing capacity. One could even use Kaczynski as an example of a cult of one. He served himself an ideology, indoctrinated himself, then used it to attack others on an individual scale.

    Here are a few references you might find useful.

    Byman, D., P. Chalk, et al. (2001). Trends in Outside Support for Insurgent Movements. Arlington, VA, RAND.
    Hanley, B. (2007). Chapter 16 - Understanding and Countering the Motives and Methods of Warlords. Countering Terrorism and Insurgency in the 21st Century. J. F. Forest. Westport, CT, Praeger Security International. 2
    Maj. Troy S. Thomas, U. and U. Maj. William D. Casebeer (2004). "Violent Non-State Actors: Countering Dynamic Systems." Strategic Insights, Center for Contemporary Conflict, Naval Postgraduate School.
    Pape, R. (2005). Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. New York, Random House.
    Thomas, T. S., S. D. Kiser, et al. (2005). Warlords Rising: Confronting Violent Non-State Actors. New York, Lexington Books.
    Wrong, M. (2001 ). In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu's Congo. New York, HarperCollins Publishers Inc.
    Last edited by Brian Hanley; 11-07-2007 at 06:18 PM. Reason: typo

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    Council Member MountainRunner's Avatar
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    Default redefining the nation, redefining a state

    Selil,
    Some quick thoughts:

    Your thesis starts pits the "nation-state" against a non-state actors. If you re-examine your starting point, you'll probably find some new paths. First, I'd suggest looking at Bobbitt's etymology of states (particularly, state-nation, nation-state, market-state). Then, I'd suggest looking at what binds the non-state actors your particularly interested in and I think you'll find an "imagined community" that binds them together. In other words, you'll find a nationalism of a different sort than we are comfortable with thinking of it. Then, what are you left with? Is it Weber's bureacracy-based definition that a state is state if it has a monopoly of force within its territory? Third, define homeland security in modern globalization where a flippant remark by a Chinese finance minister can cause more finanicial damage to the U.S. than a VBIED or even a series of IEDs.

    How do the goals of each come into conflict? Don't get buried in the tactical if you want to look at rational (rational to the actor, not yours, which means looking at justification as well, perhaps Jurgensmeyer's Terror in the Mind of God, among other) actors. What does the NSA aspire to? Do the members really know or are following Gramscian leadership for personal gain?

    Just some quick thoughts....

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    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Thanks MountainRunner some great food for thought. I've been stuck the last two days on the same sentence having written myself into a corner. This haleps a LOT. Especially the comment about the finance minister. I guess I should find out who said it first "perception is reality".
    Sam Liles
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    Default Violent Non-State Actors

    ISN, 25 Nov 08: Violent Non-State Actors and National and International Security
    This paper seeks to explore this phenomenon of violent non-state actors, while recognizing that there are various sub-species, each with its own distinct characteristics. The analysis identifies factors, trends and developments that have contributed to the emergence of VNSA s. The focus then switches to the groups themselves, looking at different kinds of VNSA s. The paper draws on the pioneering work been done by Troy Thomas and various collaborators as well as an important study by Shultz, Farah and Lockard that argues very persuasively that armed groups have become a “tier-one” security threat......

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Much focus seems to be on the "violent" aspect of these groups. States can be, and have been, far more violent than the non-state organizations have been.

    Perhaps a better way to veiw this new side effect of globalization is through what is being described at USSOCOM as a "Competition for Sovereignty." The theory being proposed and taking on broad interest and acceptance is that, now, like no time in recent history, populaces have choices.

    Non-state organizations take on many forms, from fairly altruistic NGOs, to greed-driven international corporations, to similarly profit motivated international crime networks, and to what we are most focused on today, networked terror organizations like Al Qaeda.

    AQ has been widely described as leading a "global insurgency" and somehow bewitching otherwise happy, peaceful populaces with a Pied Piper-like use of ideology.

    I would offer that a more constructive way to view this phenom is to instead look at AQ as waging a regional UW campaign. UW used to be the sole purview of states. Now, with the tools of globalization, non-states can wage UW also. (UW being the efforts of an external party to incite and leverage another state's populace to rise up against their government in insurgency).

    As to Ideology, it is good to remember that the Pied Piper is a myth. People only act upon a message if they are in a circumstance that makes them open to it and its promised results. To merely defeat the Piper or destroy his pipe still leaves one with a populace ready to follow the next "piper" to come along.

    This all plays into this competition for sovereignty. No longer can states simply order or expect the support of their populace, they now find themselves in competition not just with other states, but with all of these myriad non-state actors as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    As to Ideology, it is good to remember that the Pied Piper is a myth. People only act upon a message if they are in a circumstance that makes them open to it and its promised results. To merely defeat the Piper or destroy his pipe still leaves one with a populace ready to follow the next "piper" to come along.
    Well put. This is an absolutely essential point, and one that is too often overlooked.

    At the same time, it is also important to recognize that even given a set of underlying sociopolitical conditions, even particular "tunes" have weaknesses that can be exploited—narratives and memes that can be disputed, reinterpreted, or redirected. Competing tunes might also appeal, given a certain set of underlying social conditions.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
    This all plays into this competition for sovereignty. No longer can states simply order or expect the support of their populace, they now find themselves in competition not just with other states, but with all of these myriad non-state actors as well.
    Were they ever able to do this? They certainly haven't been in the Middle East since decolonization: political permeability isn't a new phenomenon, and indeed the threat of cross-border ideological delegitimation and political destabilization was substantially greater in the 1950s and 1960s (primarily, but not exclusively, radical Arab nationalist in character) than it is today. Middle Eastern regimes have been, since the early 1970s, the most stable on the planet—albeit at a high cost in terms of domestic repression.

    While there are certainly aspects of globalization (ICTs, migration) that have enhanced the ability of radical NSAs to challenge power-holders, it is also the case that the state-building and development resources have been deployed by regimes to "harden" themselves with striking success.

    Middle Eastern authoritarian regimes have also been able to use the challenge from armed, radical non-state actors to deflect pressures for greater political participation and inclusion of unarmed, non-radical non-state actors—ie, civil society. Egypt has been a perfect case in point, with Mubarak balancing the twin challenges of the Islamist opposition and the (short-lived) Bush Administration's democratization agenda to counterbalance and largely neutralize each other.

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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default A Violent Non-State Actors Reading List

    I was slightly surprised that Violent Non-State Actors (VNSA) was actually an abbreviation in use here, ah well cannot recall everything here

    So thanks to Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, vai al-Wasat blog we have the list and his explanation:
    The study of VNSAs is thus a young and developing academic field, and scholars examining VNSAs will experience both the joys and also the pitfalls of working on a relatively new topic. The theoretical literature is highly uneven, with some extraordinarily well developed concepts mixed with a battery of assumptions that the field may no longer adhere to in four or five years.

    This semester I’m teaching a course on violent non-state actors for Georgetown University’s security studies program, the first such class that the program has offered (although it has offered courses examining terrorism and counterterrorism for many years). A number of colleagues have expressed interest in seeing my syllabus, or having me provide a reading list. Thus, to assist other scholars with an interest in VNSAs, I’ve compiled the following reading list, largely based on my course syllabus.
    Link:http://thewasat.wordpress.com/2013/0...-reading-list/

    The list whilst global in reach naturally reflects a US focus and priorities, so if anyone has suggestions, especially if available on-line, please add a post.
    davidbfpo

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    Default David,

    your comment:

    I was slightly surprised that Violent Non-State Actors (VNSA) was actually an abbreviation in use here, ah well cannot recall everything here.
    caused my SWC re-search engine to fire up - knowing that I've used the term VNSA - though usually as TVNSA (Transnational Violent Non-State Actor); sometimes as DVNSA (Domestic Violent Non-State Actor).

    My usage goes back to this post (30 Mar 2009), JP, the answers to your questions ....., which doesn't deviate from my present theories:

    JP's question:

    ...the question of which law applies - Local laws and regulations (State and Federal Statutes) or the laws of warfare (UCMJ/Geneva Convention).
    My answer:

    JP, the answers to your questions ..... cut across a number of currently on-going threads. The answers are NOT matters of law only, although the Rule of Law (local and international) and the Laws of War do come into play.

    Two levels will come into play, besides law:

    1. The current study of "irregular warfare" and the military policies that will be developed from that, including the applicable SROEs.

    2. The national strategic policy that is currently under development - not for the far future, but the policy that will be in effect for, say, 2010 (not 4 or 10 years in the future).

    This is complicated because one size will not fit all of the situations. From a legal standpoint - and from the military SROE standpoint, I see at least four different situations that the military will have to confront:

    1. Conventional warfare.

    2. Insurgency (primarily focused on one nation which has one or more Domestic Violent Non-State Actors - DVNSA, with or without external support by one or more State or Non-State Actors).

    3. Military action against Transnational Violent Non-State Actors (TVNSA), such as AQ, who launch attacks across international borders. Related to this is the permissible scope of civilian agency paramilitary action against the same TVNSA target. Two approaches have been taken: "War ROEs" and "LE ROEs" (these are in quotes because there are different views internationally as to what "War ROEs" should be, and what "LE ROEs" should be). Adoption of one or the other as a default does not necessarily preclude use of the other in certain defined situations. There is a huge conflict here.

    4. Military assistance in LE (Law Enforcement) Operations, which may involve groups that are either DVNSAs or TVNSAs, but as to which the political decision has been made NOT to raise the status of the problem to that of an "armed conflict". In short, these generally will be regarded as domestic criminal law problems.

    All of these situations require reasoned political decisions (national policy level); and hopefully mission tasking type orders to the military to allow it to formulate appropriate SROEs, and particular ROEs on a case by case basis - which will have to fit the military strategy, operations and tactics adopted for each case.
    So, to me, VNSAs (TVNSAs and DVNSAs) are useful categories in considering the different kinds of situations requiring specific ROEs - which by necessity require (or should require) reference to the specific strategy, operations and tactics best suited to the particular situation.

    Now, from whom did I derive this useful concept of VNSAs ? Well, from Slap - a few weeks before:

    Slap - 9 Mar 2009:

    I don't think it matters much if they are insurgents or not. Because first they are criminals or the more modern term VSNA (Violent Non State Actors).
    JMM99 - 10 Mar 2009:

    I like this term .... from Slap ... VNSA (Violent Non State Actors), which covers a lot of ground; and, as I am now viewing it, is much the same as a non-State actor that uses armed force.

    Working as a Devil's Advocate against myself, an important question is how to define an armed conflict in which a non-State actor (VNSA) engages - as opposed to a VNSA who engages in criminal acts.[*]

    Like the definitions for "terrorists", I doubt that any general definition can be tailored that will fit all cases.

    In the US, my recourse would be to the constitutional process of a resolution to use armed force against a defined enemy (e.g., a VNSA), approved by both the Legislative and Executive branches. In short, a case by case determination. [**] Once that determination is made, the situation would be an armed conflict generally ruled by the Laws of War.

    In the absence of such a determination, the Rule of Law (law enforcement rules) would be the default, even where a VNSA is involved.

    BTW: my postings in this thread are an opinion piece - what the law should be, not necessarily what it (or the actual practice) is.

    ------------------------
    [*] Viewing members of a VNSA as "enemy combatants" (ruled by the Laws of War) should not preclude their prosecution under the Rule of Law (domestic criminal law), unless they satisfy the requirements for combatant immunity - most will not meet those requirements.

    [**] "case by case" here meaning situation by situation; not meaning judicial cases. SCOTUS has made it clear that it will not intervene where the other two branches have acted in this political area. The exceptions have been where domestic constitutional issues prevail - e.g., the habeas cases and the Steel Seizure case.
    I've very much stayed with this methodology ever since.

    One final question is when VSNA first reared its head at SWC. For that, we can blame Brian Hanley, 7 Nov 2007:

    non-state as capable as the state

    The underlying question is, "What does a VNSA (violent non-state actor) require in order to be as capable as the state?" A corollary is, "What does it mean to be as capable as the state?" I'd say the second is a combination of ideology and indoctrination. The first is an ability to cause death equal to the state. Ideology is always primary.

    We see with Islamism (also with ELF and the Aum cult, but on a much smaller scale) the ability to serve up a motivating ideology and then follow it with death dealing capacity. One could even use Kaczynski as an example of a cult of one. He served himself an ideology, indoctrinated himself, then used it to attack others on an individual scale.

    Here are a few references you might find useful.

    Byman, D., P. Chalk, et al. (2001). Trends in Outside Support for Insurgent Movements. Arlington, VA, RAND.
    Hanley, B. (2007). Chapter 16 - Understanding and Countering the Motives and Methods of Warlords. Countering Terrorism and Insurgency in the 21st Century. J. F. Forest. Westport, CT, Praeger Security International. 2
    Maj. Troy S. Thomas, U. and U. Maj. William D. Casebeer (2004). "Violent Non-State Actors: Countering Dynamic Systems." Strategic Insights, Center for Contemporary Conflict, Naval Postgraduate School.
    Pape, R. (2005). Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. New York, Random House.
    Thomas, T. S., S. D. Kiser, et al. (2005). Warlords Rising: Confronting Violent Non-State Actors. New York, Lexington Books.
    Wrong, M. (2001 ). In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu's Congo. New York, HarperCollins Publishers Inc.
    This post was from the thread started by Sam (selil), Nation state and non-nation state actors (5 Nov 2007), which IMO should be consolidated in this thread. Mod adds: done sah!

    Regards & HTs to all who've contributed to my constructs involving TVNSAs and DVNSAs.

    Mike
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 09-07-2013 at 08:53 PM. Reason: Add note after merging done

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Violence is a tactical choice, no more, no less. It does not in my experience and studies add much to helping to understand the nature or category of any particular problem, situation or organization.

    We in the US military rely far too heavily on the presence or absence of violence to define problems and organizations, and also to determine success or failure. Think this tendency creates one of the largest (and completely self-imposed) mental obstacles to getting to clearer, more effective understanding on much of what we have wrestled with over the past 12 (yes, 12) years.

    At some point I am sure we will pause and consider what our lack of strategic progress in the face of so much tactical success really means in terms of the flaws of how we have framed many of these problems.

    Oh, and I am not sure whether to laugh or cry at the irony of the current debate regarding Syria as to if we should arm the non-violent rebels are not. What do non-violent rebels need with arms??? Is our goal to turn them into violent rebels?? Would we then stop working with them and condemn them along with the other groups employing violent tactics to challenge the Assad government?
    Robert C. Jones
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    Default VNSA-Violent Non state Actors

    In Systems Analysis one of the first thigs you want to do is define all the elements of the System by their "function" or their output, which will or should aid in develpoing a solution. VNSA is just more useful IMO than calling somebody a Terrorist!?.....

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    Default Non-Violent Non-State Actors

    Bob, if we (US) are dealing with Non-Violent Non-State Actors, whether here or in a foreign land, our military should not be involved at all - repeat and full stop. If they are truly non-violent, there is no need for armed confrontations; and those matters are best handled via lower-level Gene Sharp techniques.

    In fact, most Non-Violent Non-State Actors come under the heading of NGOs - as to which over 1,800 operate transnationally (2008 count from Gabriella Blum). I'd also add that your assertion:

    Violence is a tactical choice, no more, no less.
    doesn't ring true to me. Violence vs non-violence are the basic strategic choices - "chimp vs bonobo". Once a government or an opposing group decides on violence, it will find it difficult to get back to non-violence.

    Even with Violent Non-State Actors, our basic strategic choice is not necessarily military force, although the choice may include military assistance; e.g., my category 4 and comments:

    4. Military assistance in LE (Law Enforcement) Operations, which may involve groups that are either DVNSAs or TVNSAs, but as to which the political decision has been made NOT to raise the status of the problem to that of an "armed conflict". In short, these generally will be regarded as domestic criminal law problems.
    The USG's Civil Rights enforcement efforts in the 1950s and 1960s vs opponents (some violent; some not) of the Civil Rights decisions and legislation are examples of that within the US.

    Since I'm not a proponent of arming Syrian rebels, I'm not about to argue that they should be armed. However, if I read John McCain correctly, he says we should be arming them more heavily than they already are. Are there any unarmed Syrian rebels at this time ?

    Regards

    Mike

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    Council Member Bob's World's Avatar
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    Mike,

    Good points. Violence is indeed often the elephant in the room. It defines the environment; but I simply do not see how it in any way helps to define or describe the problems that give rise to the actors who ultimately either chose violence or had violence forced upon him by the other party (ies) to the contest at hand.

    Maria Stephan (in Turkey with the State Department team focused on Syria last I talked to her) and Erica Chenoweth have done one of the more detailed studies on the role of violence in populace-based conflicts ( http://www.amazon.com/Why-Civil-Resi.../dp/0231156839), and in fact many such contests where the rebels employed violent tactics and failed, were later ultimately won by the people such groups emerge from once non-violent approaches were adobted and employed.

    We are so focused on "threats" and violence by our J2/J3 led approach to military operations, however, and lose sight too often that the real energy is the segment of the population the challengers emerge from, not the challengers themselves. So an organization that emerges to challenge the state violently from this populace may well be "defeated", such as the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka recently. But that in no way resolved the underlying grievance between the Tamil populace and the government of Sri Lanka. Can the Tigers come back with nonviolence, like the IRA did in N. Ireland? Perhap, or it may take a new group to emerge that opts to represent Tamil grievances in non-violent ways from the beginning. The Tigers were never the problem, they were the symptom.

    A focus on violence drives a focus on symptoms, and I just don't think that symptoms are "strategic."

    From the overview of their book:

    Presenting a rich, evidentiary argument, they originally and systematically compare violent and nonviolent outcomes in different historical periods and geographical contexts, debunking the myth that violence occurs because of structural and environmental factors and that it is necessary to achieve certain political goals. Instead, the authors discover, violent insurgency is rarely justifiable on strategic grounds.
    Last edited by Bob's World; 09-09-2013 at 01:54 PM.
    Robert C. Jones
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    (Understanding is more important than Knowledge)

    "The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)

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    Default The Non-Violentistas

    Bob,

    I think it's a good thing that Stephan & Chenoweth's book adds to the literature of non-violence as a strategy - "Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict."

    Albert Einstein Institution (Gene Sharp) has a number of publications on the topic. Robert Helvey's "On Strategic Nonviolent Conflict: Thinking About the Fundamentals", is along the lines of Stephan & Chenoyeth:

    "On Strategic Nonviolent Conflict" delves into the question of how to build a strategy for nonviolent struggle. Covering a variety of topics--such as ways to identify a movement's objectives, preparing a strategic estimate for a nonviolent struggle, and operational planning considerations--this publication contains insights on the similarities between military and nonviolent strategy. It represents a major new contribution to this field of study. Additional topics covered in the book include psychological operations and propaganda, contaminants that may affect the efficiency of a nonviolent movement, and providing consultations and training for members of movements and organizations.
    FREE as a pdf from AEI ! So, the USG folks should have no excuse for not reading the book.

    I got into Gene Sharp and AEI for personal reasons: What is my best COA if my 2nd Amendment rights are materially curtailed ? I and others will not comply, but that alone is not a strategy. Long story short, Sharp's non-violent struggle strategy seemed by far the best approach. I'm comfortable with that since it follows Dr King's strategy. So far, the political approach has kept the gun contollers at bay; and, hopefully, will do so for the rest of my life.

    Getting back to Helvey, if you have some time, please take a look at his book to see whether it is actually worth a $hit. I expect you'd be able to look at two appendices and pretty much give a take on the book: Appendix 3 Example of Problem Solving Using Staff Study Format; and Appendix 4 Suggested Format for Preparing a Strategic Estimate.

    Regards

    Mike

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