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 You are in: Bureaus/Offices Reporting Directly to the Secretary > Policy Planning Staff > Secretary's Open Forum > Proceedings > 2004

Between Hard and Soft Power:The Rise of Civilian-Based Struggle and Democratic Change

Peter Ackerman, Chair, International Center for Nonviolent Conflict
Remarks to the Secretary's Open Forum
Washington, DC
June 29, 2004

Opening Remarks and Introduction

DR. ACKERMAN: I want to thank the Secretary's Open Forum and its chair Bill Keppler for this opportunity and honor to speak to you today. But before I start, I'd like to know are there any Fletcher graduates here? Okay, good. I'd like to thank all of you who are not Fletcher graduates, who are in the majority, for coming. Given the subject of my presentation, I think it's fair to say we are all here today for a common reason: because we care about democracy and human rights, and we want to explore new policy approaches. We typically see policy options through the dichotomous lens of hard and soft power. Hard power is the use of military force and economic measures, often in response to short and intermediate crises; its policies are generally more coercive. Soft power is what makes America's ideas and society more attractive, in the words of Joe Nye, and includes measures such as cultural exchanges and public diplomacy. Soft power is applied consistently over the long term, and is designed to encourage cooperation and accommodation.

The debate over the merits of each form of this power is decades, if not centuries, old. It has intensified certainly since 9/11. One side declares soft power irrelevant -- these are the enemies to whom the U.S. will never be attractive; while the other side claims our military initiatives could never succeed with the world hating America. Yet the debate is really two sides of the same coin: that foreign policy initiatives emanating from the United States or other major powers are all that counts in world affairs.

But there is another type power, civilian-based power, and that is what I am here to talk to you about today. Time and again over the past century it has been a major force in overcoming oppression, ending injustice, fostering democracy, human rights, civil society and political stability in virtually every region of the world. The difference between civilian-based power and hard and soft power is that civilian-based power is indigenous. It is not something controlled or imposed by great powers on others; civilian-based power is local, and it springs from the concerted, collective, strategic, nonviolent actions of large groups of people within a country or conflict.

So more precisely, what is the phenomenon of civilian-based power and how does it operate in key regions that U.s. policymakers are tasked to influence? The strategic use of civilian-based power is a way for people with no military alternative that's viable to fight for their rights and to liberate themselves from oppression. The tactics include acts of defiance available to ordinary citizens such as strikes, boycotts, mass protests, and every conceivable act of social and economic non-cooperation.

Now, the strategic side of this is to select and sequence these tactics based on a plan to undermine an authoritarian's pillars of support and control, including and especially the loyalty of the military and police. Nonviolent resistance operates on a disperse theory of force in society. That power is derived from the everyday lives of ordinary people. The dynamic unfolds when people refuse to obey and then make themselves ungovernable. This leaves the authoritarian's position untenable. By way of contrast, violent insurrection operates from a so-called decapitation theory: mobilize a guerrilla force to kill the leader, and change will come. The problem with the decapitation theory is that the probabilities of success are historically very low, and that the change that comes is rarely democratic, because the guerrilla groups invariably want the absolute power of those they have successfully deposed. Whereas nonviolent insurrections have tended to result in democratic transformation, because organizing many segments of the society for the resistance reinforces the civic structures needed to sustain a democracy.

Civilian-based resistance has been part of the greatest news-making events of the last quarter century. Here I would include, as Bill mentioned, the people power movement that overthrew Marcos in the Philippines; the 600 civic organizations that forced Botha from power, demanded DeKlerk's release of Mandela, and ended apartheid in South Africa; the "No" campaign that terminated Pinochet's reign of terror in Chile; the Solidarity movement that created the first trade union and ultimately led to the demise of Communist rule in Poland; and of course I should mention the civil rights movement in the United States and Gandhi's battle with the British now 75 years ago.

In the past few months, several of the conflicts involving civilian-based power have won notable victories. In November of last year, the corrupt administration of Edward Shevardnadze in Georgia was ended. What many don't know is that the final three weeks of mass demonstrations were the tip of the iceberg. Planning, training, and a series of small-scale nonviolent actions began as long as a year before. Interestingly, the media in the Middle East took special notice of the events in Georgia, and commentators there began to ask if this could happen in their own countries. And for those skeptical of Muslim receptivity to civilian-based resistance, I would call your attention to the events of May 6th of this year. On that day, Aslan Abashidze, the dictator of Ajaria, which was a breakaway province of Georgia, was forced out of power. What many don't know is that Ajarian students contacted Georgian students in the Kmara resistance movement to learn how to launch a nonviolent struggle in Ajaria. Planning and actions began as early as this past January.

Now, in our question-and-answer session I hope we'll be able to talk a little bit more about the importance of planning. Movements that are planned tend to be more successful that movements that are spontaneous. One of the interesting illustrations of this is when Lech Walesa came to celebrate the opening of our first movie, he made it very clear that there was a two-year prelude, a conceptual prelude, a planning prelude, to Solidarity before it was launched in the early '80s, and he considered this vital to that movement's success.

Now, in the current 12-month cycle, conflicts featuring the use of civilian nonviolent tactics have occurred or are occurring in Armenia, Belarus, Burma, Syria, Ukraine, Venezuela, Cuba, Nepal, the Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Iran, Zimbabwe, and as I mentioned Georgia and Ajaria.

Nevertheless, in my experience the ideas of nonviolent resistance or the application of civilian-based power can be confusing because of the misconceptions people typically have. Now, what are these misconceptions? One important misconception is that civilian-based power, which requires nonviolent discipline in its execution, is the same as principled nonviolence. Nonviolent tactics are used for strategic purposes, whereas nonviolence described as an ethic is usually associated with pacificism. Successful, nonviolent resistance movements therefore don't depend on converting the oppressor. Instead the require a significant level of coercion, as authoritarians rarely give up power voluntarily.

Another misconception is that leaders of nonviolent movements must be saints. But except for Gandhi and King, virtually all leaders of nonviolent resistance movements would have considered a military option if it was viable. In fact, most movements, such as South Africa and Poland, evolved from failed violent insurrections. While leaders of civilian-based movements demand nonviolent discipline, they don't necessarily require this discipline for its moral value. They demand nonviolent discipline so their provocations create dissension among groups their adversaries depend on. A movement can't co-opt the loyalties of people they threaten to kill or maim.

Another widely held misconception is that the potential for civilian-based power is limited by the brutality of the dictator or oppressor. In fact, sometimes the most brutal dictators turn out to be the most brittle. No one would call Pinochet a pussycat. For the crimes they commit against their populations, these dictators can easily commit against their followers who they often believe in their paranoia are becoming traitors. In the end, no one trusts anyone in the inner circle, which leaves the dictator's position highly exploitable. In general, the press and foreign policy community tend to understate the vulnerabilities of oppressors at every point before they are ousted. That is why their loss of power by nonviolent means is always a shock to the so-called experts. I remember the day Milosevic fell a prominent newscaster on national TV said, "I don't understand how this could have happened -- he was just in power six days ago."

Another misconception that I'd like to discuss is that some policymakers assume that nonviolent resistance movements can be instigated from the outside. But that is most often not the case. Why? Because such movements are always developed at the grass-roots level involving males and females, old people and young people, of every economic and social strata. Also, these movements can and do experience severe repression. Civilians will not take risks unless there is a home-grown leadership that inspires them and that is credible. However, civilian-based movements can be nurtured by external assistance, and I'm going to talk about that later.

Now, one final misconception is that nonviolent resistance movements are just so-called peaceful mass protests in big cities. To be effective though, civilian-based power must include a variety of tactics, dispersed geographically. Otpor, the anti-Milosevic student movement, was successful because it operated in 70 cities and towns outside Belgrade. Mass protests may start a movement, but alone they cannot finish one. A variety of confrontations and provocations are necessary before the authoritarian's pillars of support will desert him.

While Iran, for example, is ripe for the expression of civilian-based resistance, a full range of tactics have yet to be applied throughout the country. Now, when this occurs, and I believe it will, events will take a surprising turn.

Now, what we are about to see is a short highlight reel of a documentary I produced with filmmaker and director Steve York. It chronicles the fall of Slobodan Milosevic, the first successful nonviolent resistance movement in the new millennium. This case study is full of interesting developments. For example, the opposition movement did not need igniting by the West. In fact, the Serbs will adamantly argue that they suffered a setback by the NATO bombing over Kosovo. However, to their credit, officials from America and Europe regrouped, and along with key NGOs provided importance assistance and training in the critical months that followed. Nevertheless, most experts assume that Milosevic, the butcher of the Balkans, would only fall by violent insurrection. In our interviews for the documentary, key officials generally conceded surprise at the suddenness of Milosevic's demise.

Now let's watch this 10-minute highlight reel.


DR. ACKERMAN: "Bringing Down A Dictator" was a 55-minute movie that aired on Public Broadcasting Corporation the Easter of 2002. I encourage you all to see the whole movie. It's very moving. There's a couple vignettes in there that are interesting. One is the point is made that the day Milosevic fell only two people died -- one of a heart attack at the parliament and the other of a traffic accident somewhere else in Belgrade.

And the other point that was made during that time: that it was very hard for the police to shoot at the crowds, because they may very well might be shooting at their own children.

Our first movie, "A Force More Powerful," was aired on PBS in September 2000 in two 90-minute segments. It chronicles six other stories of civilian-based power including, as Bill mentioned, India, Nashville, South Africa, Denmark, Poland and Chile. Both films have been seen by millions in over 70 countries.

Now, we wanted to tell these stories on film to show that even though they happened at different places and at different times, they are really the same story. And that story is, as Desmond Tutu expresses at the end of "A Force More Powerful," and I quote, "When people want to be free, there is nothing that can stop them."

But I am not here to extol the films, per se. But what has stunned us is the degree to which these stories of civilian-based power presented visually have resonated with so many others around the world. And, also, we have been pleasantly surprised that these films have been used as training tools. For example, three months after Milosevic fell, Steve York and I visited Belgrade. We showed members of the Serbian opposition one of the segments of "A Force More Powerful" on Pinochet's ouster in Chile. They told us that had they seen this film three years earlier there never would have been the bombings over Kosovo. They would have adopted a winning strategy much sooner, and Milosevic would have been long gone.

Another recent example was how the Georgian opposition used copies of "Bringing Down A Dictator." The following was the impact as reported by the Washington Post the day after Shevardnadze resigned: "The Georgian opposition movement modeled its campaign on the popular uprising that deposed Yugoslavia's president Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000, and even adopted its slogan. Opposition leaders traveled to Belgrade for advice, and brought their Serbian counterparts to Tblisi. Thousands of Georgians were trained in the techniques honed in Belgrade, and the opposition persuaded Georgia's independent television network to air a documentary on the Serbian uprising -- not once, but twice, in the last 10 days. 'Most important was the film,' said Ivane Merabishvili, general secretary of the National Movement party that led the revolt. All the demonstrators knew the tactics of the revolution in Belgrade by heart because they showed the film on their revolution. Everyone knew what to do. This was a copy of that revolution, only louder." In the remarks in the discussion we have afterwards, I'd like to talk a little bit more about training. But one of the things that we have also discovered thought the films and otherwise is the portability of these ideas and the way people use the knowledge form past conflicts to impact their own.

So, in conclusion, why am I here if after all civilian-based power must be homegrown to succeed? Why should the policy community be interested in something they can't fully control? I believe there are three interests this interest should be high for people in this room. First, the stakes are huge in conflicts involving or potentially involving civilian-based power and the use of nonviolent tactics. As your former colleague, Ambassador Mark Palmer, so eloquently discusses in his recent book, "Breaking the Real Axis of Evil," the governments that brutally repress their own people are the very same ones that traffic in weapons of mass destruction and support or harbor terrorist groups. Civilian-based resistance can reduce deadly violence and the appeal of terrorist groups because it offers a viable means of resistance for people suffering under oppression.

Second, while external forces cannot bring civilian-based movements into existence, there is a great deal that the international community can do to nurture and sustain them. These movements desperately need material resources, including funds and communications equipment. This provides vital independence and standing for dissident groups. Governments and NGOs need to pressure undemocratic regimes to make them hesitate to use repression against nonviolent movements. This can be done either with sanctions targeted against elites and by continuous advocacy by human rights organizations against such abuses. Opposition members can benefit from education in the theory and practice of civilian-based resistance. Now, this doesn't detail specific advice in the heat of battle, but the general transference of strategic knowledge has made and can make in the future an enormous difference to pro-democracy elements.

Finally, perhaps most important, the awareness and harnessing of civilian-based power can broaden the limited range of options that exist when policy is considered only in terms of hard and soft power. U.S. policymakers are consistently caught in the conundrum of accommodating regimes they wish were democracies. At the same time, from the border states of the former Soviet Union to the Middle East to Africa to Asia, civilians in these regimes are calling for reform. They are demanding governments that are accountable to their citizens. But they don't want the United States or anyone else telling them what to do or trying to impose something from the outside on their societies. What they want is the tools to multiply their power, and the international community should be ready to help.

Let me conclude by planting the thought that this perhaps could be a new realm for transatlantic cooperation. Thank you very much, and I'm glad to take questions. (Applause.)

MR. KEPPLER: Anyone wishing to either ask a question or provide their own views and comments, we ask you if you're sitting in front of a microphone to please press the button. If you're not, I would encourage you to go to the microphones that we have set up there in the back, so that your comments can be recorded and included in the transcript.

While we're waiting for the first person to come up and ask a question, I'd like to use the chairman's prerogative to ask you the first question. In regimes that are so totalitarian and so authoritarian, such as North Korea, does the concept and the possibility of nonviolent conflict -- is that a real possibility? And in the examples you've given us, while they are authoritarian governments, they were not as closed societies, they did not have the extensive social and political control that we do find in those regimes like North Korea. So using North Korea as a template, is it possible that nonviolent conflict is a viable possibility there?

DR. ACKERMAN: I think first I'd like to make a general comment. Nonviolent resistance is not a panacea. It's a set of tools, a set of weapons, that are used in conflict. And as we all know, conflict has a very uncertain outcome in all cases. And there's no question that the more closed the society is, the less political space there is, the more difficult it is for movement to begin.

But we have to remember that it's not the authoritarian that fires every shot at the population or undertakes every act of depredation. They need a group around them that can have the multiplier effect and have a larger impact. It's the loyalties of that group that are critical as targets for nonviolent resistance movements.

So with respect to North Korea, I would say two things. Number one, it's probably the toughest nut to crack for sure; but, at the same time, I don't think we fully understand the extent and potential for dissidence that might exist there. Certainly people aren't happy with their lives. I think we shouldn't assume that people rest easy with their lack of freedom, and if given alternatives and if exposed to possibilities, virtually anything is possible. You also have to work with the fact that a totalitarian regime that's been successful for long periods of time expects total cooperation, and when it doesn't receive it there's a great sense of disorientation that's exploitable. So I hope that gives you a reasonable answer.

MR. KEPPLER: The gentleman there.

Q My question is somewhat related to what Mr. Keppler said. How has your organization and yourself dealt with the psychological effect that the public in general have when they are under a regime such as Iraq, for example, or the Taliban? It's almost like a government terrorism, they sort of terrorize the people, and they're so afraid of doing anything, because it is a very closed type of society. We can't really keep watch on them. There's no press. So the media has a very limited way of putting out to people exactly what's going on. So how does an organization likes your tackle first sort of identify a group internally, and then try to cure that psychological oppression that they have in their own minds that it's almost impossible to get this type of nonviolent conflict in place in those countries?

DR. ACKERMAN: Excellent question. Let me start again by reiterating a point I just made. The targeting for a nonviolent resistance movement is the loyalty of the police to the military. They basically are the key pillars of support that every totalitarian regime requires, no matter how brutal they may be. And there's no question you're correct that the key use of repression is to basically harm the few to terrorize the many, and that's certainly what happened in Chile. But one of the interesting stories is Chile. The original seeds of resistance were focused on the idea of basically having a general strike in a copper mine. Again, a focused area, limited, and of course Pinochet said if you do this we will kill those who do this, and it was a very easy target for oppression. So what the movement did instead was that they had a day they designated in the capital where people would drive at half speed and walk at half speed, and at the end of the day they would lift their windows up and start banging pots and pans. And the purpose of this is that you can't arrest everybody who's walking at half speed and driving at half speed, even if you conclude it was half speed. But what you did create was a sense of self-identification and mutual reinforcement of the dissatisfaction that exists and the possibilities of larger and more aggressive acts. And certainly the banging pots and pans, unstoppable by a totalitarian regime, reinforced that notion. This happened month after month. And what started to happen as a result is that people became less afraid and were able to coordinate more aggressive activities.

Let me also spend a second and I think -- when do we finish here? Let me spend a second talking a little bit more about the theoretical elements here with an illustration. If I lined up in Iraq the entire Republican Guard before the war, and say, Look, all you have to do is walk from this side of this room to that side of this room, and you'll be free and there will be no more depredations on yourself or your family, there will be no more fear, and Saddam will go, I think it's fair to say all but those who receive the greatest awards would probably take the step, if they believed they could be secure in that process. Now let's change the game for a second, and say, Well, walk from here to there, fine, but if 90 percent don't walk -- if at least 10 percent don't walk with you, then those who take the step off the wall -- they're going to be killed. So you say to yourself, Well, I'm sure 10 percent, since everybody knows it's 10 percent, will walk with us -- I'll take that risk.

Now start raising the number from 10 percent to 20, to 30, to 40 -- suddenly the risks multiply dramatically. And when you get to 70 or 80 percent have to walk with you, then it becomes critical for you to know who's going to walk and who's going to not walk. And what you're finding here, that the issue as to whether this regime stands or falls is not the brutality of Saddam or Pinochet or Milosevic, it's how well they can communicate with each other with confidence that everybody is going to walk.

The virtue of nonviolent resistance tactics is that allows for that kind of communication, within the inner circles and between the inner circles and the population at large. And that's what creates the disintegration of the loyalties to the dictator.

MR. KEPPLER: The lady in the back, please.

Q My name is I come from Howa Ibrahim (ph), and I come from American University. I'm a Humphrey Fellow, just rounding up my program. I'm going back to my country. I think you give me what I need to go back, and to go back well.

My question is one interesting thing about defeat is the fact there is no national leadership. How do they organize? How does the group stand, and how do you have the centralization and achieve a result without that leadership?

DR. ACKERMAN: That's also a fantastic question. And I would say that historically leadership has taken many different forms. You have a charismatic leader like Gandhi, you had in the Danish resistance of the Nazis 14 people who nobody knew who they were -- they were totally anonymous and hidden. But the key in both cases is that people had to know that those around them would respond to that leadership. And so you're exactly correct: for the leadership to be -- there has to be leadership, because there has to be guidance, because premeditation and planning and strategic thinking are critical to the success of these movements. But the leadership has to impact the general population in a decentralized way. So between the leadership that might be in the center and the general population there have to be cells of leadership, like the 600 civic organizations in South Africa. So it's very much -- that was really the -- those civic organizations were really the crucial fault group that basically made it very difficult for the apartheid regime to stay in power.

In "A Force More Powerful," we tell the story of the economic boycott in Port Elizabeth as a key story to illustrate what had happened throughout South Africa. So a leadership at the top, a leadership that disperses throughout the society are all critical. Whether it's charismatic or not is I think idiosyncratic to the circumstances.

Q (Off mike) -- faxes were used in China, cell phones are being used in decentralized communications and organizing.

DR. ACKERMAN: I'm glad you asked that. The International Center for Nonviolent Conflict had a one-day seminar with people from the Lawrence Livermore Laboratories to create and to explore what technologies would actually create advantages for civilian-based movements. There is no question that these technologies are democraticizing. They give an advantage to the -- they enable decentralized activity. They create, if you will, a digital concept of the right of assembly. But I'll leave the question telling you what the best idea that came out of that seminar was. It was to -- and let's get back to North Korea, which -- and the truth that happened afterwards is as interesting as this, as what we conceived of. Let's say you drop 10,000 boxes or distributed somehow in North Korea. The boxes contain the following: 100 feet of string, a balloon, a helium canister and microwave devices, radio devices that can communicate. Tie the string to the tree. Tie the other end of the string to the balloon. Attach the electronic device to the balloon, stick the helium canister in the balloon, break it. The balloon rises 100 feet in the air, and you have an unlimited number of transmission towers. Provide in addition the ability to transmit with devices, hand-held devices -- suddenly you have an interesting opportunity.

I think right after we had this meeting there was -- I don't know if you remember the story of somebody tried to send a balloon over into North Korea from South Korea. So these might be far-fetched to some, but they are unquestionably enabling. Anything that creates the ability to communicate outside the reach of an authoritarian is something that is promotive of these kinds of movements.

MR. KEPPLER: The gentleman with the tan jacket, please.

Q (Off mike) -- Reform Party of Syria. As we all know, Syria is one of those tough nuts to crack. We have learned in the past few months, being active in politics and being active inside Syria as well, that the Syrians inside Syria, the dissidents, their hands are tied, and they have not been to shake the tree, as we say. And so what they have done is they've come back to us -- first in the form of, Help us free some prisoners -- which we have done. We've contacted Congress, we have letters going out, et cetera, et cetera. We are doing our best. But now the contacts have come back to us, where they are asking for help. They are saying, We need you, because we don't seem to be able to really do anything that is effective inside the country. And that is novel in its texture because, as you said, you either have a free country inside -- relatively free -- people can do what they've done, as we have seen, or anything else that comes from outside could be violent and therefore it doesn't fall in that category.

So my question is we are experiencing something new -- we as dissidents inside Syria and outside Syria -- that communications going back and forth and trying to help them inside, because we do have certain things that we can help them with. And my question is: How do you see this kind of -- how do you see our role as dissidents outside develop into trying really to accomplish something where people are really able -- but whose hands are tied in the sense that they cannot do the things that we've seen in the movie people can do?

DR. ACKERMAN: I'll answer not as an expert on the situation in Syria, because I'm not, but I'll just share with you that you're not the first person representing a particular part of the world that's come to us with this kind of request, and the request is we have a nascent movement, we have things we can do, we have restrictions on what we can do. We need a concept of what to do next that's part of a larger strategy. We need to have people help us materially.

Now, as far as you're concerned, as dissidents, I would encourage you to try to understand the parts of these movements that we studied that are relevant to you. I would try to understand what in the past relative to your circumstance -- I'd try to understand what in the past have been the critical variables of success, like the importance of unity, the importance of declaring a certain goal that basically resonates with the entire population. So, for example in the case of Solidarity they didn't ask for the end of communism -- and, believe me, they felt as much under the gun as you're expressing today. As a matter of fact, when Lech Walesa was with us, he made the point when he saw our movie -- he basically said, first, that your movie is inadequate -- my heart fell through my stomach here. And he said the reason it was inadequate was because it didn't make the point that there were one million Soviet troops on his soil when the Solidarity movement began. But he didn't define the movement's goals in terms of ending communist rule -- they just wanted a free trade union. They received a free trade union, and then within four months 10 million people signed up. That's the equivalent of 70 million people signing up for one of the unions in America within four months. So picking goals -- unity, marshaling your own resources, understanding how you can use the empathy of the international community, understanding where the regime's weaknesses are -- who do they depend on for their support in their terror, or just to get the everyday work done, understanding that repression will come back and dealing and organizing with that repression by having redundancy of leadership. These are things that were done in the past, learning how to think about the sequencing of tactics -- not just mass protests. One of the things you didn't see in this movie is that just before this major coming together in Belgrade, there was a massive strike in the coal mines, which provided a huge proportion of the electricity around Serbia. So there's a variety of tactics that are available. So I wouldn't want to gainsay to you how difficult it is. But at the same time I don't think you should lose hope to believe that there aren't things that can't be done internally if you think them through. And you think them through has a sequence of activities. So I invite you to talk with our center, and see if we have anything that might be of use, and to think through these issues because I think what would have happened elsewhere does resonate -- should resonate with what you need.

MR. KEPPLER: Peter, you want to advise people about your website, and also about the handouts that are available.

DR. ACKERMAN: You've done it. We have handouts about the center outside. I don't know if we have a few tapes. Of course if you ask us for tapes of the two movies, we will be delighted to provide them.

I'd like to tell you, if I can, for one second about another project we're working on that might be of considerable interest here. Because groups like yours have come to us, frustrated with not quite understanding what to do next, what we decided to do is to create a nonviolent resistance simulation game. We've hired a firm, called Breakaway Games, that has done civilization games, and has also worked for the Department of Defense on conflict issues. They're in the gaming business. And we have been working with them now for a year on simulations of nonviolent resistance movements. So you'll be able to take your own country and basically recreate it in this game. It's demography, it's geography, it's key institutions, the predilections of every member in that society you can identify. You can lay all that out, and then you could actually sort of choose up sides, and one side would play the regime and one side would play those who were in the resistance, and continuously work through a variety of tactics and to see what the impact is on a multi-variable -- when I'm saying multi-variable, I'm talking about hundreds of variables -- very sophisticated model as to what will work and not work in the particular conflict you're in. Now, the importance of that is not just to transfer knowledge about what might work or what might not work, but also to create cohesion and to create a sense of possibilities amongst people who basically have difficulty seeing the next steps. This game will be generally distributed throughout the world. It will be in open architecture form. It will be usable on paper or on computer. And we think it will be incredibly important for those who are working to free themselves from oppression.

MR. KEPPLER: The gentleman down in front, please.

Q Yes, my name is Karim Abdian (ph), and I do teach nonviolence to various ethnic groups in Iran and the Middle East. My question to you is that in a country like Serbia, where you have a somewhat uniform country -- and if we look at the Middle East you have countries that are composed of several ethnic groups, and their end states are not necessarily the same, you know? So you go into these countries, and you say, We offer nonviolence, but that does not offer them an end state. You need to tell them what the end state is. If you apply non-conflict or peaceful moves, the end state for example is the rights of self-determination, just like in Iraq as you know in Iraq this issue is alive today - with the Turks, with the Turkomens, with the Asyrians and Syria and Iran and Turkey, Chechnya, and all these countries this is an issue that is: What is the end result? What is the end state?

So I believe, and my question to you is how do we convince the international community to make sure that these countries either subscribe to the fact that the rights of self-determination will be reserved for these ethnic groups? In Iran, as you know, I am from Iran, and various organizations -- the Turks, the Kurds, the Baluchs -- they have their own political priorities, but they don't want to work in unison. They want to make sure that after liberation that each ethnic group succeeds in autonomy or self-rule or independence -- whatever the right of self-determination is.

So my question to you is: How do you augment the nonviolence means with the end state of the rights of self-determination in multi-ethnic societies?

DR. ACKERMAN: That's again an excellent question. I think -- (short audio break for tape flip) -- we only showed a 10-minute segment on Serbia, and that isn't the whole rich experience of nonviolent resistance, but let's stay back with that for a moment. The reason why Milosevic stayed in power as long as he did was because there were 14 factions at least within that society that couldn't unify. It's only when they decided to unify that his power became more tenuous. They decided to unify when they really believed they had a method of fighting that was going to be effective. So it's sort of like a chicken-and-egg thing that ultimately created a virtuous circle.

I don't think people from the outside, whether it's for Iran or for Iraq, or other countries that you might think of, can tell people why they should unify. They have to decide why they should be unified, and usually it's around some idea that they want to create an end state of constitutional democracy, because these methods of nonviolent conflict, as I said in my prepared remarks, are really best in service, because they require the participation of so many elements of society -- best in service of democratic values and ideals. So when the country internally decides it wants to have as an end state that kind of society, the added value is to basically say, Well, here's how you can do this through nonviolent resistance methods. Then the two elements get linked. But you can't impose that from the outside. It has to be understood.

Now, one of the things that we do as an organization is that we would love to speak to as many Iranians that are interested, or Iraqis that are interested, or Palestinians that are interested, to talk about what the possibilities are of nonviolent resistance -- but they must ultimately decide how these techniques are going to be used.

MR. KEPPLER: The gentleman at the microphone please.

Q Dr. Ackerman, thank you very much for your presentation. My name is Nasir Rajeti from National Coalition of Pro-Democracy Advocates. I'm from Iran, and I am sure many of the audience here know that Iran is now ruled under religious dictatorship and we in Iran lost over 100,000 people when Iran faced -- people have been hanged on cranes in public. And I'm asking you a question on the anniversary of the Iranian students uprising 1999, 2002, and I assure you this is the beginning of that anniversary. In a country that doesn't buy any international law, how could a nonviolent movement get to its end? In Iran students are now on the street. They're asking for a referendum. But what would be the role of the international community to support this movement?

DR. ACKERMAN: I think again, as I said in my prepared remarks, and I've tried to repeat here, is that it's less important what the international community does and it's much more important what people inside Iran choose to do and the risks they choose to take. I would not for a minute in any way minimize the impact of that kind of terror on a population. But at the same time, people do have choices. This is a society that is now populated predominantly by people below the age of 30. From what I understand, there's a substantial amount of disaffection with the clerics, even amongst other clerics; that not all the police and the military, the Revolutionary Guard and others are equally loyal to the center. The question is: How do people get together and think about what they can do? Now, what I did say in my prepared remarks is that movements that tend to be dispersed -- geographically, demographically -- but organized with a common purpose and a similar strategy, usually linked around one overriding goal -- I mentioned the free trade union movement in Poland. The beauty of what Gandhi did is he created the famous salt march, because everybody had to pay a tax on salt, and this mobilized people which for centuries had not been mobilized before. And somebody might -- if I was here 75 years before with this knowledge, somebody might have said to me, Well, Peter, you know, we're sitting with the Brits having controlled us, and the Amritsar massacre in 1924, which killed 400 people, and so this is a -- you know, this regime is impenetrable -- what should we do? And if there was no Gandhi, I would say, Pick a goal that people could rally around. One goal might be the veto, the parliamentary veto the Guardian Council has. It's a simple issue, people relate to it. I'm not sure it resonates, but if it does that might be one or there might be others that might create a unity of purpose inside Iran. That is critical for success.

With respect to the international community, they come second. Knowledge about what to do internally is really the most important thing that will turn the tide of that kind of resistance. Don't expect the international community to create something that can't first be created internally.

Q You mentioned something about violent overthrows resulting in negative outcomes because those who conducted the overthrow don't want to relinquish their power, or don't want to relinquish the violent means to maintain power after the overthrow has occurred. In regards to these nonviolent regime changes, how do you feel about the governments that have come into place, for example post-Shevardnadze in Georgia, and there's always some questions -- I'm not exactly sure, but there's been some questions about Kostunica's -- how deep the reform has actually gone there as far as the military establishment. And I'm curious if you could just comment on the governments that have been put in place after those nonviolent regime changes.

DR. ACKERMAN: Well, again, a very interesting question. And I think that many of them are works in progress, but many of them are substantial successes -- South Africa I'd say we consider a success at this point, although it would be better to see a much more competitive two-party system. I think the sad thing is you saw Djindjic who was represented in the movie -- he was is the assassinated -- a great man, a wonderful man, and very sad what happened. And but at the same time we recently I believe just had an election in Serbia that a moderate I think prevailed. When we go to Georgia, it's a work in progress. You know, what happened in Ajaria was very hopeful. We'll see if the current leadership basically strengthens the democratic elements or not.

If we go to Poland, if we go to all of Eastern Europe, where these types of tactics were used and predominated, I think we have another success story. You tell me how you feel about the Philippines post-Marcos. It's up again and down again. I think though if you basically take the group of those regimes that have changed by virtue of civilian-based resistance, and you take those few that have changed versus violent resistance, you'll find a marked difference in outcome -- the former being much more likely to create a democratic result.

Q (Off mike) -- revolution. What went wrong in 1956?

DR. ACKERMAN: I don't know. My sense is it turned into a series of street battles in Budapest, not too different from what happened in Poland in 1970. And when you do that you basically create a target, a very rich concentrated target for the police and military to basically throw out.

The key to a nonviolent resistance movement is staying power. That's why it needs to be spread. You want to provoke the police -- you don't want to threaten them, you want to provoke them -- provoke them and communicate with them, and break down their loyalties. It's a much different process than a few people manning barricades trying to basically in some idealistic hope think you're going to basically overthrow through violent methods the people who are ultimately going to have more power than you will -- more military power than you will.

Thanks very much. (Applause.)

MR. KEPPLER: Peter, thank you -- excellent.

This really is a very important topic, and certainly very essential to consider this approach in addressing global conflicts. We could go on for a couple of hours, but unfortunately we can't.

Today's program wraps up the program year for the Secretary's Open Forum 2003-2004. I hope you've enjoyed the programs, found them meaningful and worthwhile. We've tried to make this a genuine "open forum." We've had a diversity of speakers and topics. Among the diverse speakers we've had were William Kristol, George Soros, author Mark Palmer, World Bank President Jim Wolfensohn, IDB President Enrique Iglesias, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Christopher Harnisch, and most recently UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie. We've addressed a broad range of issues. We've tackled international and regional economics, human trafficking, sexual exploitation, the plight of refugees throughout the world. We've talked about the uses of hard and soft power to oust dictators and oppressive governments and regimes, and how to promote democracy. We've also talked about the efficacy of public diplomacy in promoting U.S. policy goals and objectives in our conduct of foreign relations.

In the year to come, I'm going to be looking to you to come up with some other ideas for topics and themes and speakers that interest you. You'll find the Open Forum and its chairman very receptive, because we do want to do programs that are topical, relevant, compelling and, most important, that will have an impact on our policymakers here in our building.

The role of chairman is for one year. My year will be up this fall. Within the next week or two, we'll be announcing and soliciting for candidates for the position of Chairman of the Open Forum. So if this is something that you might be interested in doing, please look for Department Notices, broadcast e-mails, and signs throughout the building about how you can be nominated to be chairman and serve for a one-year period here at the Open Forum.

I'd like to conclude today's program by once again thanking our Distinguished Guest Speaker, Dr. Peter Ackerman, for providing some very stimulating and thought-provoking ideas, and hopefully "soft power" will at least take its place with "hard power" in the conduct of diplomacy. Thank you again, Peter. (Applause.) And I want to thank you all again for joining us. Hope to see you again this fall.

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