Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ronald Reagan and the advent of nonviolence

Where Jimmy Carter had been trying to tie human rights to other issues of foreign policy way on back in the 1970s, Ronald Reagan stopped all that and began to overtly and prodigiously support those who John Kennedy quaintly called "son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch." This meant that the 1980s, the Reagan Era, was when the people of much of the world became rebellious toward the despots that the US was supporting.

Some chose violence. In El Salvador, that meant that the guerrilla, the so-called vanguard of the people, were also terrorists along with the US-backed military government (or thinly veiled, military-controlled, government). Same in Guatemala.

Some chose nonviolence. In the Philippines, People Power overthrew a dictator who had been backed for about a quarter century by the US. In Iran, same thing.

It looked like the US was losing ground, but the main opponent, the Soviet Union, had far fewer reserves and lost ground faster. They collapsed for a number of reasons, but the final stages were all nonviolent noncooperation from within.

Of course, in the US and still the case, the Reaganistas claimed the victory. But the Russian people attended to their own overthrow, as did the people of the various republics within the erstwhile Soviet Union. The dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the open borders first at Hungary, and the overthrow of Soviet puppet governments were done with nonviolence, not by any violent threat.

So the great robbery of the US national savings to create a massive arms buildup did little or nothing in this regard--indeed, the increasing supply of arms to those dictators who turned around and crushed labor unions (urban and farm) and who made sure that environmental laws were non existent or not enforced all generated more resistance.

So, in the end, Ronald Reagan's military spending made the world react more generally and more profoundly to throw off these puppets (as well as reject the Euromissiles and nukes in general in Europe), and most of that liberation was done with nonviolence. In a perverse way, his skewed and sad priorities helped promote nonviolence. We cannot thank him for that, but it is at least instructive to think about what hypermilitarism can cause, as we see it still.


Zirker, Daniel (1999). The Brazilian Church-State crisis of 1980: Effective nonviolent action in a military dicatorship. In Zunes, S.; Kurtz, L. R.; & Asher S. B. Nonviolent social movements: A geographical perspective. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers.

No comments: