The Limits Of Non-Violence

Mohandas Ghandi pioneered the idea of non-violent resistance, but there are times and places where non-violence is little more than a ticket to a death camp.

Matthew Yglesias closes out a post on the effectiveness of non-violent protest with this rather odd paragraph:

Over the years I’ve come to adopt a pretty extremist view on this, and I think I’m even prepared to accept the reductio ad Hitler case. Had it been feasible to coordinate the population of Poland, Denmark, Norway, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, etc. into a mass campaign of non-violent resistance to German occupation I think that would have brought even Hitler down. The problem there is essentially about how difficult it is to sustain collective action rather than about the need to fight evil with violence.

The problem with this example is that the non-violent protest sort of assumes that the entity you’re protesting against isn’t simply going to turn the machine guns on you, pull the trigger, and kill you in the middle of your “non-violent” protest. Given their actions from 1933 onward, it’s fairly clear that there was very little that would have restrained the Nazi leadership from doing exactly that. They did it to their own citizens, after all, and they saw no moral problem with sending millions of Jews off to death camps to be killed. Do you really think that they would have had any problem with sending a few tanks into the crowd of a “non-violent” protest in Paris in 1941 ?

If you want a more contemporary example, you need look no further than Tiananmen Square in June 1989. Faced with a non-violent protest that was being broadcast around the world, the Chinese government decided to use force to break it up. Whatever the goal of that protest was, it’s fairly clear that non-violence in the face of tanks is of, at best, only limited utility.

Non-violent protest is a good thing, and in a society based upon the Rule Of Law, I would argue that it is the only acceptable form of protest. Non-violence worked for Ghandi and Dr. King precisely because they were working within a system that, at least at its core, respected the Rule of Law. In a tyrannical society, however, both of them would’ve been dead before their movements ever got off the ground.

In the face of actual tyranny non-violent resistance is little more than a suicide pact.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, US Politics, World Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. ponce says:

    The British couldn’t operate India without the cooperation of the Indians.

    Therefore non-cooperation was effective there.

  2. JKB says:

    He has a point, it is very difficult to sustain collective action when millions of your fellow protestors are machine-gunned into mass graves. Perhaps he is unfamiliar with what happened to the Poles left in the wake of the German advance into the Soviet Union. Once they form special squads to exterminate entire villages, non-violent and resistance part ways. And of course, the protests against the Soviets in Czechoslovakia and Hungry worked out so well.

    Really, can anyone be this blissfully ignorant or do you have to go to Harvard?

  3. Brummagem Joe says:

    Yglesias’ thesis is utter nonsense as you point out Doug. Ghandi prospered because basically the British are decent people with a respect for the law. He’d have got short shrift from Hitler or the Japanese. In fact he’d have got short shrift from the British in the 1800. Despite all the romance, the fact is that outside of the Balkans and occupied Russia, there was little or no effective resistance to the Nazis in Western and Central Europe. Nor could there be.

  4. Ponce,

    Because the British were not tyrants and were not willing to take the steps that other nations might have taken in the face of such a movement.

  5. Brummagem Joe says:

    “The British couldn’t operate India without the cooperation of the Indians.”

    But you can coerce cooperation which is what the British when they suppressed the Indian Mutiny. Or the Germans did when they took over the French railway system. There was change in the British pysche by the early 20th century for various reasons.

  6. ponce says:

    If you need the people you’re occupying to further or continue your operation you’re going to be susceptible to Gandhi’s tactics.

    If they’re just a drain on your resources, however…

  7. tps says:

    Harry Turtledove wrote a short story called “The Last Article” where the Nazi’s have defeated Britain and marched into India. Ghandi tries non-violence and it seems to work for a brief moment but then the slaughter begins. He just can’t understand when the German commander Field Marshal Model isn’t repremanded by Hitler but actually commended!

  8. Brummagem Joe says:

    “Because the British were not tyrants ”

    This is basically true which is why they were fairly good at running an empire but when ruthlessness is called for they usually demonstrate it (eg. sinking the French fleet in 1940, or the Belgrano during the Falklands War).

  9. tps says:

    During the Indian mutiny the British didn’t need to do too much convincing of the population. Whole groups like the Sikhs became their allies quite willingly.

  10. ponce says:

    “But you can coerce cooperation…”

    Let’s just say a Gandhi style resistance in 1850 by slaves in the South would probably have been more effective than one by Native Americans in the same period.

  11. legion says:

    Non-violence is a good political tactic, but a bad military tactic. In the 40s, pretty much everyone knew Hitler was a murderous thug, but in the 30s he was still trying to retain a few shreds of political cover. He wouldn’t have been able to, for example, play Chamberlain like he did if he’d been slaughtering civilians in the streets of Gdansk. If it had occurred when he was still making his opening gambits, the impact of Ghandi-style protests could have made an enormous difference in how Hitler had to do things. And if the German army turned some of them into mass executions, that could very well have shocked the German civilian population into realizing just what sort of a monster they’d put into power.

    It’s by no means a certainty, but it makes for a very interesting thought experiment….

  12. Tano says:

    “Because the British were not tyrants and were not willing to take the steps that other nations might have taken in the face of such a movement.”

    Actually, the very premise of the independence movement was that the British were tyrants. There is an argument to be made that non-violence only worked because the British, exhausted and impoverished by WWII were not in a position to do what would be necessary to subdue the sub-continent, but the argument that the Brits were somehow above it all is specious at best. They had a very long and very bloody history there.

    Re. Hitler:
    “They did it to their own citizens, after all, ”

    Hitler “turned the guns” on a minority of the population – a minority that it was tragically easy to turn the majority against. Hitler led a populist movement. The non-violence organizing that Yglesias was talking about posited a situation where the majority either opposes the oppressor, or can easily be convinced to do so – and a significant percentage of them are committed activists willing to sacrifice themselves to the larger movement. So yes, HItler would have turned the guns on non-violent protestors, but for how long? And what if the remainder of the population continued in non-cooperation?

    “Do you really think that they would have had any problem with sending a few tanks into the crowd of a “non-violent” protest in Paris in 1941 ?”

    Of course not. But you seem to have a very superficial understanding of what Gandhian nonviolence is all about. It is not mainly about holding non-violent street protests where everyone holds flowers and sings songs while getting gunned down. In fact it is nothing like that at all. Non-violence is a broad strategy of non-cooperation in every aspect of society. All oppressors, foreign and domestic, ultimately have to make the society work to some extent. Otherwise there is no benefit to them to be oppressors. The goal of non-violent non-cooperation is to make it impossible to have a functioning economy.

    You can coerce cooperation to some extent (which of course is part of the definition of tyranny), but that is limited by the amount of resources and manpower you have available and by the level of organization and commitment of the non-cooperators.

    “…Tiananmen Square in June 1989. Faced with a non-violent protest that was being broadcast around the world, the Chinese government decided to use force to break it up. ”

    What do you think this proves? There were many demonstrations of the same type in India, and the Brits used force to break them up. The difference was that they took place in a larger context in which 1) the population at large was on the side of the protest – probably not really the case in all of China, and 2) Gandhi had a broad strategy of noncooperation of which the demonstrations were a small part – whereas in Tienanmen the demonstration was the movement in toto (or effectively so).

    I am not prepared to go as far as Matt does in claiming that it would work, but I don’t buy the easy dismissal either. Suffering enormously from the first-level reactions of tyrants – which usually amount to “turning the guns on” the protesters – is an expected phase in non-violent strategies.

  13. anjin-san says:

    > Ghandi prospered because basically the British are decent people with a respect for the law.

    He was put in prison four times for working towards an India free from foreign rule. Not sure how that equates with “prospered” or how British actions were not tyranny. British respect for law extended to putting men in prison for simply wanting to be masters in their own house.

  14. Dan says:

    What’s the point of this discussion? With man, there will always be violence. So remember:
    1. Don’t pick fights.
    2. Speak softly and carry a big stick.
    3. Fight fire with fire.
    4. Never quit.

  15. Anthony says:

    “Had it been feasible to coordinate the population of Poland, Denmark, Norway, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, etc. into a mass campaign of non-violent resistance to German occupation I think that would have brought even Hitler down.”

    Setting aside the broader theoretical point of whether it is possible for non-violence to work against a Nazi-type regime, in practical terms this is roughly equivalent to going “Had the British had access to a GPS-linked orbital laser cannon, they could have just zapped all the key buildings being used by top-level Nazis and most of WW2 wouldn’t have needed to have happened.” If human nature was different and if logistics was something that didn’t matter and if something that has never yet happened in history happened, maybe things would be different. So what?

    I think a key plank to be noted here is also the role of a free press. Both Gandhi and MLK benefitted from the fact that what they were doing was more or less freely reported beyond the immediate environment in which it took place and captured the interest of the press. In Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, that doesn’t work.

  16. tom p says:

    just out of curiousity. I wonder how “non-violence” would have worked in Afghanistan/2002 or Iraq/2003?

    Not saying it wouldn’t have worked, but wondering how people think it would have worked?

  17. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Why is it then, that you support the tryranical agenda of the left? Don’t worry Doug, we on the right have no intention of allowing you on the left to take away our freedoms without a fight. One you cannot win. We have all the guns.

  18. Brett says:

    So yes, HItler would have turned the guns on non-violent protestors, but for how long? And what if the remainder of the population continued in non-cooperation?

    How long do you think protesters would be willing to show up if they’re going to be gunned down in the streets? Or joining up with the movement if they’re being arrested and shot? People tend to have a powerful desire to keep on living.

  19. Fog says:

    “We have all the guns.” I hope you don’t plan on acting on that assumption, Mr Confederate.
    You might be wrong.

  20. Brummagem Joe says:

    Tano says:
    Saturday, October 2, 2010 at 13:45

    “Actually, the very premise of the independence movement was that the British were tyrants. There is an argument to be made that non-violence only worked because the British, exhausted and impoverished by WWII were not in a position to do what would be necessary to subdue the sub-continent,”

    Actually the major premise of the Independance movement was NOT that the British were tyrants (Nehru went to Harrow and was deeply Anglophile) but that the Indians had a right to govern their own affairs. The British in fact had already conceded this principle with the Govt of India Act that the Baldwin govt passed in 1932 (against the impassioned resistance of Churchill) in response to pressure from Indian nationalists like Ghandi, Nehru and Jinnah. By 1939 many Indians were already in positions of govt within the British admin but the whole movement to independance (which wasn’t fast enough to satisfy the Indians anyway) was stopped in its tracks by the war.

  21. Brummagem Joe says:

    anjin-san says:
    Saturday, October 2, 2010 at 14:02

    “He was put in prison four times for working towards an India free from foreign rule. Not sure how that equates with “prospered” or how British actions were not tyranny. ”

    Then I don’t think you can recognize real tyranny. There’s hardly any equivalence in the mild and essentially respectful way the British treated Ghandi and how he would have been treated had he been a protester in German occupied Europe. He visited Britain in 1931 I think and was treated like a hero!

  22. J.W. Hamner says:

    For non-violence to work, the protesters have to be 100% willing to die. In the context of WWII then, we’re talking millions of people getting gunned down, defenseless, in the town square. Would the Nazis have been willing to publicly eradicate say, 50%, of their occupied territories’ subjects? I suspect even the Nazis have their limits… but the problem becomes, if you have 50% support for resistance, then why wouldn’t you do it violently?

  23. Brummagem Joe says:

    legion says:
    Saturday, October 2, 2010 at 13:30

    “He wouldn’t have been able to, for example, play Chamberlain like he did if he’d been slaughtering civilians in the streets of Gdansk.”

    The Munich crisis took place in the fall of 1938. Hitler had been hauling civilians off the streets of Vienna and slaughtering them since the Anschluss which took place in March 1938, and the British govt were well aware of it. In fact after the night of the long knives in 1934, there wasn’t much doubt that Hitler was a murderous thug.

  24. Brummagem Joe says:

    J.W. Hamner says:
    Sunday, October 3, 2010 at 10:10
    “In the context of WWII then, we’re talking millions of people getting gunned down, defenseless, in the town square. Would the Nazis have been willing to publicly eradicate say, 50%, of their occupied territories’ subjects?”

    The fact is you don’t have to gun down millions, a few thousand will usually do it. And yes he’d have been quite prepared to do that. Do you know what the populatiion of Poland was in 1939 and in 1945. And he cheerfully wiped out the entire Jewish population of Germany, Poland, Hungary, Austria, Czechoslovakia. You might also want to familiarise yourself with his plans for Russia and Britain had he conquered them.

  25. Brummagem Joe says:

    “Govt of India Act that the Baldwin govt passed in 1932 ”

    Ooops, senior moment, the India Act was actually passed 1935 but it was proposed in 1932. Btw the Viceroy of India at the time was Lord Halifax, Chamberlain’s foreign minister at the time of Munich.

  26. anjin-san says:

    > Then I don’t think you can recognize real tyranny.

    Compared to the Nazis? No, of course not. But we fought a war of independence over grievances that were almost certainly less egregious than those faced by the Indians. If the founding fathers did not regard the British as tyrants, what was going on that was worth killing or dying for?

    I am not out to put a slam on the Brits, I a happy to regard them as friends. But lets not paper over the very real dark side of British colonial rule.

  27. Brummagem Joe says:

    “But lets not paper over the very real dark side of British colonial rule.”

    I didn’t think I had since earlier I pointed that the British were exceptionally ruthless when the need arose, suppressed the Indian Mutiny with immense ferocity and would have rapidly disposed of Mr Ghandi in 1800. But that was not the situation in the 20’s and 30’s and when, for example, General Dyer committed an atrocity in India at Amritsar in 1919 it caused a huge outcry in Britain and he was recalled. The British were successful imperialists because on the whole their rule was relatively benign and because of certain features of the British character which is why there is so much evidence of “Britishness” to be found in many of their former possessions.

  28. Brummagem Joe says:

    “If the founding fathers did not regard the British as tyrants, what was going on that was worth killing or dying for?”

    And British rule of America in the 18th century was hardly tyrannical. One could write a book about the causes of the American revolution which was at bottom about aspirations to self govt, economics independance and personal ambition. Once the British had removed the threat of the French in the 7 years war the 13 English speaking colonies were free to pursue these goals.

  29. anjin-san says:

    > on the whole their rule was relatively benign

    Except when it wasn’t. As in the case of Amritsar. Apparently Dyer’s main motivation for the order to open fire was he was concerned about being made a fool of. The firing into the unarmed crowd that included many women and children went on until ammunition started to run out. When asked if he took any steps to tend to the wounded after the firing stopped, Dyer’s response was “certainly not”. Dyer was eventually relieved of duty for having acted on a “mistaken notion”. That was the British justice handed out to a mass murderer.

    Time does not permit a discussion of the concentration camps in the Boer War. Or the simple fact that denying people the ability to rule in their own country is, in fact, tyranny.

  30. Tano says:

    “Actually the major premise of the Independance movement was NOT that the British were tyrants (Nehru went to Harrow and was deeply Anglophile) but that the Indians had a right to govern their own affairs.”

    I think that is just wrong. Both of these notions were inherent parts of the movement. If you need help understanding how both can be underlying premises, then look to the American revolution. Clearly the right of the 13 colonies to govern their own affairs was a dominant theme. But so was the notion that the British were tyrants (and I am sure you would admit that the American revolutionaries expressed this view often, even though, for example, George Washington was a British general, and all of the revolutionary leaders had stronger ties to England than Nehru did).

    In fact, the two notions feed off each other. In the absence of tyrannical behavior by the governing authority, the need for revolution does not rise to the surface. On some level of course, all people have the desire for self-governance, but if they live in a society with a beneficent authority, then the critical mass of people tend to just go about their business and are not inclined to make revolution.

  31. Anthony says:

    “As in the case of Amritsar. Apparently Dyer’s main motivation for the order to open fire was he was concerned about being made a fool of. The firing into the unarmed crowd that included many women and children went on until ammunition started to run out. When asked if he took any steps to tend to the wounded after the firing stopped, Dyer’s response was “certainly not”. Dyer was eventually relieved of duty for having acted on a “mistaken notion”. That was the British justice handed out to a mass murderer.”

    But we come back to the free press issue. The Amritsar massacre resulted in massive press coverage, widespread public outrage in Britain and numerous questions in Parliament. Dyer certainly had supporters but but the weight of opinion was against what happened and his position was ultimately made untenable. Similarly, the concentration camps in the Boer War ended up being savaged in the press and in parliament. The point is that each of these examples resulted in people back home being horrified and the government scrambling to repair the damage. They add nothing to the overall argument about the potential universal utility of non-violence and non-cooperation.

  32. Brummagem Joe says:

    Tano says:
    Sunday, October 3, 2010 at 12:58

    “I think that is just wrong. Both of these notions were inherent parts of the movement. If you need help understanding how both can be underlying premises, then look to the American revolution. Clearly the right of the 13 colonies to govern their own affairs was a dominant theme. But so was the notion that the British were tyrants”

    I think you need help in understanding the difference between substance and presentation. When they want something, the first thing activists do is to demonize their opponents. The notion that George III was subjecting the American colonies to tyrannical rule is ridiculous or why else did half the country remain loyalist. According to the Tea Party crowd Obama is currently imposing a Stalinist tyranny on this country. Is he?

  33. Brummagem Joe says:

    anjin-san says:
    Sunday, October 3, 2010 at 12:53
    > on the whole their rule was relatively benign

    “Except when it wasn’t….Or the simple fact that denying people the ability to rule in their own country is, in fact, tyranny.”

    Perhaps you don’t understand the meaning of the word “relatively.” I’m not making a general defense of imperialism which was a phenomena of its times. But if you look at the actions and governing styles of the various Imperial powers(including us) in the 19th and early 20th centuries there’s no doubt that British imperialism was the most constructive and benign. They didn’t launch genocidal wars against indigenous people (Germany, Belgium, USA), they were the first to abolish slavery, they invariably practised indirect rule via local elites, and used their power to suppress traditional local customs like suttee. You mention the Boer War where the local and majority black inhabitants of the Transvaal and Orange Free State were treated infinitely better afterwards by the British than they were by the Boers. It was only after the pro British govt of Smuts fell that the Boers were able to introduce Apartheid across all of South Africa.

  34. Tano says:

    “The notion that George III was subjecting the American colonies to tyrannical rule is ridiculous or why else did half the country remain loyalist. ”

    Hmmm. So Hitler was not a tyrant because a large chunk of the population supported him?
    Maybe you have your own evolved definition of tyranny, but the concept was central one in the American revolution. Perhaps you would have sided with the Brits if you had been around back then? Maybe that would explain your defense of their colonial style.

    “According to the Tea Party crowd Obama is currently imposing a Stalinist tyranny …”

    I thought the latest was that he had the anti-colonialist attitudes of a Luo tribesman. I guess you would interpret that as being someone who had no justification for his complaints, given the British beneficence toward their subjects.

  35. Brummagem Joe says:

    Anthony says:
    Sunday, October 3, 2010 at 13:03

    “They add nothing to the overall argument about the potential universal utility of non-violence and non-cooperation.”

    The problem is non violence and non-cooperation DOES NOT HAVE universal utility when it’s up against an opponent who is unconcerned with morality, as any inhabitant of the General Govt of Poland in 1940 would be able to tell you.

  36. Brummagem Joe says:

    Tano says:
    Sunday, October 3, 2010 at 14:53

    “Hmmm. So Hitler”

    Now not only is Obama Hitler, but so is George III.

    “definition of tyranny, but the concept was central one in the American revolution.”

    Even though I’ve explained it you still don’t seem to understand the difference between presentation and substance. For you the message is the medium.

  37. Tano says:

    “Now not only is Obama Hitler, but so is George III. ”

    Sometimes BJ, its best to quit while you are behind. Because your floundering is only making you seem more ridiculous.

    Your claim was that the fact that a large percentage of Americans were loyal to British rule is proof that the Brits were not tyrants (“The notion…is ridiculous or why else did…”). To generalize your rule and apply it to other circumstances is to advance the notion that popular support precludes the existence of tyranny. You are the one that has advanced this equation, not I. The existence of popular support for Hitler is an empirical fact, not a matter of opinion. Thus it is the direct result of your logic, your rule, that Hitler must not have been a tyrant – because it is a simple fact that he did enjoy the support of a large percentage of the German people. Now I am perfectly prepared to accept that you do not agree with that, but it is the implication of your rule, and I am merely pointing it out to you.

    Even then, the implication of your rule that I pointed out – that your rule implies that Hitler was not a tyrant – is rather the opposite of anyone saying that George III was Hitler. I don’t know where you got that from, but I was not accusing you of that. It really doesn’t take all that much effort to think through one or two logical steps, does it?

    I would like to think that you are sensible enough (perhaps in those moments when you are not reacting emotionally to being challenged) that you would articulate a rule for defining tyranny that was based on other factors than popular support. But I cannot do your thinking for you, and just respond to what you do, in fact, write.

    (I don’t know what the Obama reference is to….)

    “Even though I’ve explained it you still don’t seem to understand the difference between presentation and substance.”

    Once again with these emotional reactions of insulting people because they do not accept the premises of your argument. Are you more concerned with defending your self-image than with advancing the discussion?
    The notion that the American colonists’s references to British tyranny were empty rhetoric does quite the disservice to them, I believe. If you were to read their writings, it would be hard to conclude that they did not sincerely believe this to be true. Now, maybe the fact that they were unaware of Hitler, and thus were unaware of where the bar would be set for defining tyranny in 21st century blogs, makes their words seem rather ridiculous to you, but it would probably look quite differently if you would try to understand them in their own context.

  38. anjin-san says:

    > there’s no doubt that British imperialism was the most constructive and benign.

    Perhaps you don’t understand the meaning of “no doubt”. A lot of historians feel that that distinction goes to the French. An argument can be made either way, which is a long way from “no doubt”.

  39. Brummagem Joe says:

    Tano says:
    Sunday, October 3, 2010 at 15:57

    “The notion that the American colonists’s references to British tyranny were empty rhetoric does quite the disservice to them, I believe.”

    I’m not insulting anyone, although you are, but just pointing out that the Indian (and American) struggles for independance were principally about self determination and that claims of tyranny were largely propaganda. It’s a simple differentiation which you don’t seem able to understand. Patrick Henry, in order to advance his agenda, may well have told people they were suffering under a monstrous tyranny but it wasn’t true although some may have believed it rather as tea partiers believe similar nonsense from Palin about Obama. None of this has anything to do with Hitler and the level of support he may or may not have enjoyed in Germany which is a complete non sequitur that I assume you introduced into the discussion because you can’t adequately defend your claim that the events in 20th century India and 18th century America were almost entirely about self determination.

  40. Brummagem Joe says:

    Sorry missed out word NOT above as in:

    “because you can’t adequately defend your claim that the events in 20th century India and 18th century America were NOT almost entirely about self determination.”

  41. Brummagem Joe says:

    anjin-san says:
    Sunday, October 3, 2010 at 16:51

    ” A lot of historians feel that that distinction goes to the French. An argument can be made either way, which is a long way from “no doubt”.”

    Perhaps “relatively” is not the only word you don’t understand. Those historians (probably French) must conveniently forget the relative lack of material investment in their much smaller empire and the two exceptionally vicious and prolonged wars the French fought to hold onto the colonies in Algeria and Vietnam. Once the British started to liquidate their empire, in 1947 it was largely gone in 15-18 years without major wars. And there remain in the world four important English speaking countries (Australia, NZ, Canada and us of course) that started off as British colonies. I’d say there’s “no doubt” about who had the more constructive record.

  42. anjin-san says:

    BJ… I see you are yet another who has his opinions confused with established fact. Gosh, that is so rare on a blog…

    > Once the British started to liquidate their empire

    The British liquidated their empire because they were no longer a viable major power. It was not an act of benevolence. They went to war as recently as the 80s to hang on to a relic of their colonial era.

    As for “vicious” wars (and when is war not vicious?) Let’s see. The French and Indian War. The American War of Independence. The Boer War. The Sudan Campaign. The Indian Mutiny. The Afghan War. The Sikh Wars. The Seven Year’s War. The Gurkha War. The Anglo-Persian War.

    I could go on. No, wait, you are right. The Brits were just a bunch of crazy, swell guys. The American Revolution was a mistake. We should have stayed loyal to the crown…

  43. Brummagem Joe says:

    anjin-san says:
    Sunday, October 3, 2010 at 17:58

    ” I see you are yet another who has his opinions confused with established fact. I could go on…….. No, wait, you are right. The Brits were just a bunch of crazy, swell guys. The American Revolution was a mistake. We should have stayed loyal to the crown…”

    Unfortunately your grasp of “established facts” seems slight. Of the ten wars you list, two of them are the same war (Seven years and French Indian); nine of them were wars to BUILD the British empire, not hold onto it; and most of them took place over 150 years ago long before the period we’re talking about. The only “war of independence” in the entire list is the American one. The Falklands isn’t a relic of their colonial empire. It was never a colony, but was seized from the Spanish empire who were kicked out and is entirely occupied by Brits, so the action the British took in the 80’s was no different from it’s defense of NZ from the Japanese in WW 2. You then top it off with a load of let’s say questionable bluster in which you assign to me claims I never made. I don’t dispute that the British were ruthless empire builders and said so several times, or that its ultimate surrender was an act of realpolitik in the face of nationalism. But none of this alters the basic fact that “relatively speaking” the British were the most benign, constructive and successful Imperialists. In fact it’s a complete no brainer.

  44. anjin-san says:

    > nine of them were wars to BUILD the British empire, not hold onto it;

    Did I say otherwise? I guess you think conquest is not an act of tyranny.

    > In fact it’s a complete no brainer.

    An area you have some expertise in, I conceed that…

    Off to celebrate Giants pennant…

  45. anjin-san says:

    > successful Imperialists

    Got rich at the expense of others and were willing to kill to keep it that way. Nothing succeeds like success…

  46. Brummagem Joe says:

    anjin-san says:
    Sunday, October 3, 2010 at 19:10
    “I guess you think conquest is not an act of tyranny.”

    As I said right at the start of this debate, Imperialism was a phenomenon of the time. The British just grabbed more than anyone else and when they’d got it, made the best job of running it. It’s not a question of moral absolutes but moral relativity and definitions of morality shifted between 1759 (the Annus Mirabilis when the British won out on the North American and Indian continents) and 1929. Sorry to disagree over this since we agree most of the time. Enjoy the party.

  47. TomP says:

    How far would Gahndi have gotten if thousands of Indian, Commonwealth and British soldiers had not fought and defeated the Japanese army ? His non-violence was secured by men and women willing to sacrifice everything.

  48. Juneau says:

    You all dearly love the sound of your own “voice”, don’t you?

    Outside of small, concentrated incidents that engage local government, force must be met with force if the protestors expect to be around long enough to have an impact. Tiannamen square and the subsequent results should give everyone here a clear notion of how “passive resistance” works out when faced with a “federal” government which is willing to use deadly force.

  49. Alex Knapp says:

    I can think of ten extremely successful acts of non-violent resistance against the Nazis off the top of my head. I’m willing to bet that everyone here is familiar with one that was made famous by an Academy Award winning film. Schindler’s List, anyone?

  50. […] discussing the “limits of non-violence”, my colleague Doug emphasizes his belief that non-violence is an ineffective response against […]

  51. […] discussing the “limits of non-violence”, my colleague Doug emphasizes his belief that non-violence is an ineffective response against […]

  52. […] discussing the “limits of non-violence”, my colleague Doug emphasizes his belief that non-violence is an ineffective response against […]

  53. Juneau says:

    @ Alex Knapp

    “I can think of ten extremely successful acts of non-violent resistance against the Nazis off the top of my head. I’m willing to bet that everyone here is familiar with one that was made famous by an Academy Award winning film. Schindler’s List, anyone?”

    Micro vs. macro. If that is the actual yardstick you are using, I’m somewhat puzzled. While each small “victory” is significant to those involved, how can you call passive resistance effective if the cause you represent is ultimately ground underfoot as an end result? I thought the question was whether or not passive resistance is effective. Effective in accomplishing what? Victory? Or are you declaring victory as a result of slightly reducing or delaying the ultimate outcome?

  54. James says:

    Remember 1099’s They are every where, Remember Travel logs for business, There isn’t much
    you can touch that the Gov. doesn’t have a string attached to. Remember 14trillion National Debt? One frog to the other, how hot is it 212 degrees, Reid Just right 🙂

    Civilian force that is as well armed as the military (Blue Shirts) is that Peace ?

    Mass graves = Peace

    The peaceful protest worked really well in Iran a few months ago. 🙂