Friday, April 29, 2011

Civilian-based Defense, Popular Control, and Robert Burrow

Civilian-based Defense, Popular Control, and Robert Burrowes

[This article was published in Civilian-based Defense, Spring/Summer 1994, p. 8]

Paul Emile Anders

In his excellent article in this issue"Lecturing the Military on Nonviolent Defense," Robert Burrowes writes, "It [civilian-based defense] refers to a nonviolent strategy working under the direction of a government. Like military defense, it would rely on centralised decision-making and hierarchical organisation for its implementation" (note 1).

CBDA and our magazine are trying to be clear on what civilian-based defense (CBD) is. I questioned Burrowes's characterization of CBD, and he kindly suggested that I write a rejoinder, which this is. He has interesting things to say about my views, and I hope he will share them with us in the next issue. Other readers of this magazine are also invited to join the debate.

Although CBD is perhaps generally thought of as defense organized and directed by the government of a national state, that might not necessarily obtain. Gene Sharp writes, "There is almost no doubt that a civilian-based defense policy would have to be considered and adopted through the normal democratic process and governmental decision. The governmental apparatus and resources would then be available for the preparation of the new policy, which would have to be considerable, and for assistance during the changeover. It may, however, be worth exploring other possible models for adoption" (Social Power and Political Freedom [Boston: Porter Sargent, 1980], p. 233, emphasis added.)

In a country with a history of military coups, the democratic government might be reluctant to organize an anticoup defense for fear of angering the quiescent military. In such a case, nongovernmental organizations might organize wide resistance by the general population to a future coup and such a defense could be termed CBD.

Making centralized decision-making and hierarchical organization an essential part of CBD does not seem to be a position of advocates of it whom I have read, nor does it seem advantageous. Gene Sharp, for example, wrote, "Civilian-based defense would also remove the centralizing influences endemic to military systems and introduce the decentralizing influences associated with nonviolent sanctions...These would together contribute to the development of a less centralist and a more pluralistic social and political structure, with greater popular participation" (Making Europe Unconquerable, Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger, 1985, p. 179). In discussing measures to promote civilian defense, Adam Roberts mentions that "the decentralization and diffusion of power, to encourage popular involvement in political and economic affairs, and to make it harder for the enemy to seize control of the state machinery, could be promoted" (in Civilian Resistance as a National Defence, Penguin, 1967, 1969, p. 254).

Also, Burrowes’s next sentence refers the reader to Sharp's book Civilian-based Defense, so the incautious might infer that his presentation of the matter comes from Sharp.

In conclusion, adoption of CBD by a government and its continued direction by a government, even one with centralized decision-making and hierarchical organization, seems the likely way in which CBD would be adopted and organized, at least for now. It could, however, be organized on a nongovernmental, noncentralized, and nonhierarchical basis. How it would in fact come about would depend on the conditions in particular countries.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Defense Expenses: Civilian-based versus Military

The following is republished from Civilian-based Defense, Winter 1993-94, vol 8, number 6

Defense Expenses: Civilian-based versus Military

Paul Emile Anders

Whether a particular country adopts civilian-based defense (CBD) depends not only on the public's views and information about CBD. It also depends on its information about other defense options, especially the military.

A particularly relevant piece of information about any option is its cost. A survey by the organization FAIR during the 1992 U.S. presidential campaign helps us gauge voters' information about the cost of defense.

FAIR surveyed 601 citizens at random who indicated that they would probably or definitely vote. On the average they tended to have more years of education than the average American.

Justin Morgan and Michael Morgan, who conducted the survey, wrote:

We asked respondents what the federal government spent more on in 1992: foreign aid, the military or welfare. The most popular answer, given by 42 percent, was foreign aid. In fact foreign aid consumes a tiny proportion of the budget—just 1 percent, according to the Senate Budget Office. (Of the developed countries, the U.S. spends among the least on foreign aid, per capita.)

The second most popular answer, at 30 percent, was welfare, which consumes just 5 percent of the federal budget, while military spending was named by only 22 percent of our respondents—even though, at 21 percent of the budget, it is by far the largest of these three items, more than four times larger than welfare spending.

Apparently most voters think that a military defense costs only a tiny fraction of what it actually costs. CBD would be relatively inexpensive. Supporters of CBD need to make the public aware of its potential advantage.

The End

Addendum 28 April 2011

Ignorance about U.S. government spending on defense still abounds. In February 2011 Bruce Bartlett reported that “A Nov. 18, 2010, Pew poll asked people which of these four programs the government spent the most on: national defense, education, Medicare or interest on the debt. Only 39 percent correctly answered national defense.” Many are also still misinformed about foreign aid. “A Nov. 30, 2010, poll by found that when people were asked what percentage of the federal budget goes to foreign aid, the mean (average) response was 27 percent and the median was 25 percent. When asked how much of the budget should go to foreign aid, the mean response was 13 percent and the median was 10 percent. Actual spending is well under 1 percent.” Bartlett adds, “More Republicans underestimated defense spending than Democrats, which may help explain the former’s consistent support for higher defense spending.” But just having the correct information has a limited effect on peoples judgments: “Princeton political scientist Martin Gilens examined the effect of political ignorance on political opinions and found that giving people correct information had little impact on their political judgments.”

(All quotations from “Voter Ignorance Threatens Deficit Reduction,” Bruce Bartlett,” The Fiscal Times, February 4, 2011, at

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Paul Emile Anders

[This review was published in Civilian-based Defense, Winter 1993-94, vol. 8, number 6. Oskar Schindler was a real person; see the article"Oskar Schindler." Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica, 2011. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. <>.]

If civilian-based defense (CBD) does not at first succeed in countering an invasion and an occupation follows, even a brutal and genocidal one, survival tactics could help maintain morale and undermine the opponent. Steven Spielberg's film Schindler's List holds lessons for such a situation. The film is based on a novel by Thomas Keneally.

Seeing this movie was an anguishing experience. The story centers on Oskar Schindler, a historical person. (I have not delved into Schindler's biography and do not know the movie or novel's accuracy.)

Schindler—bon vivant, womanizer, wheeler-dealer industrialist, and Nazi Party member from Czechoslovakia—sets up a factory during World War II in Kraków using Jewish workers provided by the Nazis. Schindler wants to make a lot of money, but as he gets to know his workers and the Nazi atrocities, he has a change of heart. He increasingly helps the Jews and has at his disposal great skills in the way of the world. To this noble enterprise are also dedicated the great mind of his Jewish bookkeeper and the workers' tenacity, courage, and astuteness.

The bulk of the film is set in Poland. When the Nazis decide to transport to Auschwitz the Jews at the camp where Schindler's workers are housed, Schindler engineers their transfer to a facility at his hometown in Czechoslovakia.

This film dramatizes various tactics for those dealing with invaders, especially for pseudocollaborators with invaders. If collaborators have a change of heart, should they consider remaining in their position and using it to undermine the invader? Schindler saved about a thousand Jews by using his contacts to safeguard his workers. What was done against the Holocaust was not CBD, but some of the peaceful means of opposition could be used in CBD.

• Psychology. Schindler may have briefly succeeded in curtailing summary executions of Plaszow labor camp prisoners by the psychopathic commandant Amon Goeth. Schindler told him a little story about how the emperor had shown a superior form of power by pardoning a malefactor. Schindler's consummate persuasiveness would not of course be available to all resisters.

• Threats. Schindler used masterful threats to get his bookkeeper off a train deporting Jews from Cracow. If two soldiers supervising the embarkation onto the train didn't do Schindler's bidding, they would soon find themselves fighting on the Russian front. When an official at Auschwitz threatened Schindler after Schindler offered him a bribe, Schindler refers to his own powerful friends. (The bribe was ultimately accepted and Schindler's female employees were saved from Auschwitz.)

• Religion. Practicing their religion helped some Jews maintain morale. After the slaughter of some work camp inmates, Jewish women held a religious ceremony for them in their barracks.

• Bribery and Gifts. Schindler undermined the Nazi bureaucracy with a prolonged series of bribes to key officials. Schindler cleverly dispensed money, diamonds, and liquor as needed to gain influence. He danced at their parties and schmoozed with them. When Schindler is briefly imprisoned for kissing a Jewish girl who handed him a birthday cake on behalf of his workers, the Nazi commandant defends him. In his review of the movie, Terrance Rafferty remarks, "The people who work for Schindler are lucky to be under the protection of a man who combines the recklessness of a pirate and the oily mendacity of a confidence man...A Gandhi couldn't have served them nearly so well."

(As a preplanned strategy, I doubt bribes would have a place in CBD. A policy of using bribes might encourage repression to force the oppressed to give bribes.)

• Sabotage. Another tactic is sabotaging production. At a factory Schindler later organized in occupied Czechoslovakia near the end of the war, he and his workers deliberately produced bad munitions for the Germans. This might not be suitable for CBD, which could get more mileage out of fostering trust among the invaders.

For fostering discussion of the tactics for CBD, this fine dramatization has valuable insights. High school and college classes, for example, could well use the film to begin a discussion of such tactics. Another work that comes to mind here is Ira French's The Eleventh Mayor, A Peace Play (revised by Mary Eldridge and Dr. John Mecartney), which is more directly educational. The film and play could be advantageously used in tandem. The film could be used to explore how shady dealing might or might not be pragmatically useful in CBD.

Liam Neeson plays the suave Schindler. Ben Kingsley, who played Gandhi in an earlier film, is the adroit bookkeeper; and Ralph Fiennes, the cold blooded Nazi commandant. All are convincing. This three-hour plus film takes its place besides The Killing Fields in helping us to glean some wisdom from history's terrible years.

Source: quotation from Terrance Rafferty: "A Man of Transactions." New Yorker, Dec. 20, 1993, p. 132.

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Monday, April 4, 2011

Civilian-based defense as an option: Greeting invaders with noncooperation

By Paul Emile Anders

This article was published in the National Catholic Reporter, May 5, 1989.

[An additional comment, 4 April 2011: I gratefully acknowledge the help of Betsy Kingsbury in the preparation of this reprint. The recent largely nonviolent struggles in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere in the Middle East show the effectiveness of civilians in nonviolently promoting political freedom. They can also resist invaders as the Lithuanians did against the Soviet army in the early 1990s. Erica Chenoweth, assistant professor of government at Wesleyan University, wrote in the New York Times (11 March 2011), “a study I recently conducted with Maria J. Stephan, now a strategic planner at the State Department, compared the outcomes of hundreds of violent insurgencies with those of major nonviolent resistance campaigns from 1900 to 2006; we found that over 50 percent of the nonviolent movements succeeded, compared with about 25 percent of the violent insurgencies” ( Jonathan Power writes, “Basil Liddel Hart, the military genius second only to Carl von Clausewitz, who had the job of interrogating the German generals after the end of World War II, wrote that the generals confessed that they found non-violent or passive resistance, as they encountered it in parts of France and Denmark, much more difficult to deal with than guerrilla resistance movements. The latter they could repress mercilessly, the former often outwitted them” (]

[The 1989 article starts here.] The wars in Iran and Iraq, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Angola, Cambodia and the Western Sahara have given way to ceasefires in some cases. In others, hostilities may well end soon. A deadly cycle seems to be winding down.

The protractedness and indecisiveness of much recent fighting and its cost in casualties and material and environmental destruction should occasion some consideration of civilian-based defense as a promising alternative.

What is civilian-based defense? Consider this scenario.

It is the year 2000. An invading army sweeps across West Germany, meeting no military resistance. The occupiers issue orders to the conquered.

The West Germans ignore the orders, go about their business and obey their own officials. The invaders get the silent treatment. The Germans refuse to give them supplies, which seem to disappear.

The civilians know what to do because several years previously the government decided on this policy and trained them. The antiagression Embargo Pact, concluded in 1995, takes effect and many nations sever trade with the invading country, impound its assets and deport its students.

The invader gets tough, but his brutality against the unarmed Germans turns world opinion further against him. Many of his soldiers desert. Back home the invader's population grows disillusioned. A new government takes office and orders the army of occupation home.

Tactics like those against the imaginary invasion form a strategy called civilian-based defense or social defense. Finland, Austria and Yugoslavia have already adopted elements of it. Yugoslavia's defense policy, for example, includes such unarmed resistance as boycotts and non-cooperation.

Civilian-based defense could help countries like the Bahamas and Costa Rica, which have no armies. Other countries could use it along with a military defense and eventually rely on it entirely.

To many hardheaded people, this will seem like the ultimate pipe dream. However, Norway, Denmark, France, West Germany and the Netherlands-- all in NATO-- have officially or semiofficially considered it.

Like other defenses, it has shortcomings, but they are less severe than those of military force. So long as we rely on militery technology, we are likely to have nuclear weapons. These could kill much of or all life on the planet. Also the growing destructiveness of nonnuclear weapons makes future wars impractical.

In addition, in many countries, the military has supported repressive governments. This obviously will not happen if civilian-based defense replaces the military.

Civilian-based defense adopted in peacetime would discourage invasion. What army wants to occupy a country whose population is trained in nonviolent resistance? For months the Soviet army, for example, was unable to achieve its aims in tiny Czechoslavakia when the Czechs -- though untrained-- nonviolently resisted the 1968 invasion.

Civilian-based defense presents an invader with a dilemma. To control the invaded country whose people are not cooperating, he must coerce them, maybe by jailing or killing some of them. To keep his soldiers loyal and his alliances intact, he wants to seem reasonable, but when he uses violence against unarmed opponents, he looks cruel and he loses support.

Citizens have often opposed the repression of their own governments successfully and nonviolently, as the Marcos government in the Phillipines and American officials who opposed integration in the 1960's can attest. The next step-- a big one is using it to defend against foreign aggression. A country could phase in civilian-based defense, gradually phasing out its reliance on the military.

Organized civilian-based defense takes dedication and more effort of more people but less money than the military. It requires that civilians be willing to put their lives on the line. It takes courage to oppose guns with boycotts, work stoppages and the silent treatment. But civilian-based defense is less risky than war, even for civilians. As the National Conference of Catholic Bishops said in 1983 about nonviolent defense, "Before the possibility is dismissed as impractical or unrealistic, we urge that it be measured against the almost certain effects of a major war" (The Challenge of Peace, section 223).

In an age of nuclear, chemical and bacteriological weapons, war becomes apocalyptic. Efforts to save the home country militarily could lead to committing mass suicide. With civilian- based defense, ordinary citizens such as grandfathers, nuns, housewives, you and I, and not just young men, defend our country. We can win using nonviolence, whether Europe, Costa Rica or the United States.

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