Saturday, June 2, 2007


Adam Larson
Caustic Logic/Guerillas Without Guns
Posted May 2 2007

The first time there was a general consensus in Washington on using Soros and NED money, IRI, NDI and OSI skills, and the principles laid out in From Dictatorship to Democracy in a battlefield setting would be in the year 2000. The “force more powerful” would rattle Serbia, the heart of a disintegrating Yugoslavia, to sever the supply of Slobodan Milosevic’s power, as we’ll see in detail in the following chapter. The key to the success of the tactic is in the timing, knowing when it will be effective. The timing considerations, as they were taken into account before the Serbian campaign, must be made on a number of levels, including historical, technological, biographical, and immediate political timing.

For an insight on historical timing, it must be noted that mass nonviolence as a way of achieving power is a relatively new phenomenon. Historically, most rebellions have been either violently victorious or violently suppressed. But with the evolution of global interconnectedness, greater media coverage, and political liberalism, wider avenues were opened in the 20th century, which saw the movements of Gandhi, King, Walesa, Mandela, Suu Kyi and on and on. Shifting public perception of war and peace also played a role. The horrors of total war as seen in the first World War had made pacifism incredibly popular, but the even greater horrors of the sequel conflict highlighted the dangers of pure pacifism – sometimes war was preferable to an unjust peace as agreed to disastrously at Munich. The advent of nuclear weaponry in the course of that monstrous war again made non-violence seem an attractive alternative by making violence so exceptionally dangerous to life on Earth itself. But this came just as the menace of Stalin’s Soviet Union made clear the need for continued struggle if not outright war. As we’ve seen, it is precisely this series of historical developments that drove the evolution of Gene Sharp’s thinking towards the peculiar notion of weaponizing mass non-violence.

The advent of nuclear weaponry is thus an important underpinning, but the other end of technological timing that could help aid these nonviolent actions came decades later. As Jonathan Mowat pointed out, the internet, cell phones, instant and text messaging, and the other communications breakthroughs have been used “to rapidly steer angry and suggestible ‘Generation X’ youth into and out of mass demonstrations and the like.” [1] This capability only developed in the mid-1990s, just in time to play a role in Serbia in 2000.

By 2005 American programmers were working with a Serbian activist in developing a computer game called A Force More Powerful, clearly a franchise of Ackerman’s book and TV series. Ian Traynor explained for the Guardian that the game is won “by outwitting and toppling regimes through techniques of non-violent guerrilla activism.” [2] Ackerman’s mark is also to be seen on his co-project with Lawrence Livermore Laboratories, the top US weapons designer. They hope to produce new communications technologies that could be used to facilitate “youth movement insurgencies.” “There is no question that these technologies are democratizing,” Ackerman stressed. “They enable decentralized activity. They create, if you will, a digital concept of the right of assembly.” [3]

By biographical timing I mean that activists of a certain age and class are called on to flesh out these insurgencies. The West’s planners looked to the American left as evidenced in the protest movements of the 1960s and after, and most recently at the “Battle of Seattle” in 1999. Middle class youth with a liberal education, internet access, a little energy and time to spare and a certain mixture of insulation and teen angst create the right mindset to throw a fist in the air at public rallies. Young people bring to the table energy, free time, rebelliousness and an optimism not yet ravaged by years in the adult world, and bring less of that desire for stability that often comes with age. The young are always ready to rebel against the forces of the old and the corrupt, and they are “cleaner,” more innocent, and more lovable than the old. All these are important elements in their primarily psychological campaign, but most importantly, the young represent the future, and so by manifesting Washington’s vision, they give it the mark of the inevitable course of events.

Another key feature of the 18-24 age bracket, the prime recruiting pool, is their lack of wisdom and general malleability. As with military recruiters, these are apparently also positive traits for the recruiters of nonviolent insurgents. And they’re more prone to peer pressure and illogical mass psychosis; Jonathan Mowat noted a 1967 report from the UK’s Tavistock Institute (the psychological warfare arm of the British military) that noted the then-new phenomenon of “swarming adolescents” found at rock concerts. Author Dr. Fred Emery reported the swarming was associated with “rebellious hysteria,” and predicted that with more study the phenomenon could be controlled effectively. By the end of the 1990s, he predicted, these hormonal mobs could be used at will to bring down a national government. [4] Jonathan Mowat, in his brilliant synthesis, noted “the tactic of swarming” at work as a “a new philosophy of war, which is supposed to replicate the strategy of Genghis Khan as enhanced by modern technologies […] intended to aid both military and non-military assaults against targeted states through what are, in effect, ‘high tech’ hordes.”

And what brought this approach to warfare to the streets of Belgrade, Serbia in 2000 is the final consideration, immediate political timing. Once the technology and the right activist demographic has been identified, mass political resistance is a powerful force that can indeed “restrict or sever the supply” of a dictator’s power, as Sharp noted, but not always “when needed,” as if on cue. First, the behind-the-scenes plotters must be in agreement with the wishes of the mobilized citizenry, or the citizens must be brought around to supporting the plotter’s decisions. In order for support from Washington to flow to a viable movement willing to support its agenda, the political goals of both parties must be synchronized and manifested in the opposition leader(s). This is one of the trickier parts, but deals can be and would be made time after time.

Non-violent resistance can drive a corrupt regime from power, but more often such attempts at a widespread uprising end in mass arrests or even mass killings - think Rangoon 1988, Tiananmen Square 1989, and a thousand smaller, less bloody examples spanning human history. Far more potential rebellions are simply not even attempted due to citizen apathy or fear, as in the 21st century USA; so a mass movement could do better if it had a good “marketing department” to excite involvement, or was helped by a powerful and sympathetic outside force to neutralize the terror of state power. Such help could be either indirect (diplomatic support, etc) or direct (financial or tactical support). There would be no troublesome weapons shipments to learn of as with the debacle of illegal US support to the Contras in Nicaragua, but the idea is still much the same – support the opposition to destabilize and hopefully sever the targeted regime. There’s no law against that yet.

This can lead to charges of engineering other country’s affairs, an action that carries unpleasant aftertastes of Imperialism. However, as supporters would argue, only part of the equation can be engineered from without – a revolution also must have, first and foremost, a fertile soil of political discontent in order to take root, and to appear legitimate, the new leadership must be voted on by the subjected people.

Thus a good metaphor for this type of intervention is a consensual sexual tryst – both partners may well agree to the act (the revolution) after a period of intense courtship, mutual flattery, and heavy petting (financial and diplomatic support, promises of obedience to the West’s aims). Appropriately, the teeming hordes of turned-on activist teenagers would play the part of the hormones, coursing through the body politic of the targeted partner and driving to the inevitable end. Even two consenting adults may not enter into sex with the same set of facts or the same motives. One may be drunk or otherwise impaired, or there may be a serious power imbalance in which one partner is clearly, creepily compelling the other, pushing himself on her in the motel hallway. And no matter the mood right before and during the act, the two may be left with very different feelings about the whole thing in the morning. But still, it’s not rape – that would be war.

Next: The Heart of Serbia/Point of No Return

[1], [3], [4], [5] Mowat, Jonathan. “Coup d'√Čtat in Disguise: Washington's New World Order "Democratization" Template.” Global Research. Center for Research on Globalization. February 9 2005.
[2] Traynor, Ian. “Young Democracy Guerillas Join Forces: From Belgrade to Baku, activists gather to swap notes on how to topple dictators.” The Guardian. June 6 2005.,,1499871,00.html

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