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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