Tuesday, June 11, 2013

New guards for our future security

It was just 237 years ago that our foreparents declared independence and, in that declaration, noted that:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Britain ruled the American colonies from 1607 (Jamestown)-1776. That is a long train of usurpations and abuses. From 1776-present is another long train, sometimes abusive. Was the American Revolution just a Kleenex model—use it once and throw it away? Or could we use nonviolence and do it again in some fashion? Is it time for some new guards for our future security?

Many Americans wonder how Tunisians could have endured Ben Ali for 23 brutal years—and then we recall that we endured the British Crown for 169 years. We are nonplussed that Egyptians could have suffered so long—30 bleak years—under Hosni Mubarak. Oh—that’s right—we have hung in there for 237 years, more or less, with the Electoral College, the US Senate, and other sketchy institutions. 
Political scientists Adam Meirowitz and Joshua A. Tucker, writing in the American Journal of Political Science, note that the last quarter century or so of ‘velvet’ and ‘colored revolutions’ and Arab Spring regime changes may not be living up to their original promises and yet the populace is not back in the streets risking arrest and beating to once again replace poor governments. They posit that the costs can be perceived as worth it once but not so much a second time, at least at the individual level.

Of course it’s never over. We could see another form of Orange Revolution in Ukraine, the Muslim Brotherhood might lose power in Egypt, or Serb kids might toss out Prime Minister Ivica Dačić with a general nonviolent uprising. We could see another American Revolution too, hopefully nonviolent. There are stirrings.

Why would patriots like Daniel Ellsberg, Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden—warriors and national security intelligence officers—turn with alarm to the rest of us with insider information and tell us, Watch out, your government is lying to you and stealing from you. Your own government is killing innocent civilians and invading your most personal business. At the same time the average US college graduate leaves school with $35,000 in loan debt while the average in most European countries is zip—most higher education there is free. That makes the US students very insecure. 

Fracking, mountaintop removal, coal pollution, military toxins, GMOs—threats to our natural systems that support our very foundations of life—rob us of environmental security. Our unemployment picture is very insecure, our foreclosures make housing insecure—these insecurities count. They are in aggregate far greater threats to our national security than are the random al Qa’ida elements we spend a $trillion to kill every year.

We need some new guards. I offer thanks to Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, and all the nonviolent guardians of our forests, our waterways, and our peace. As a professor I can assure everyone interested that we are graduating many idealistic and competent young people this summer and every summer—and we could help them start off with a lot less insecurity. Total student loan debt in the US has now topped $1 trillion and we could simply forgive it all and take that straight out of the military budget over a short few years and have much more security to show for it. People power can achieve a new nonviolent Independence Day for us. It is durable and ready for us whenever we choose.


Meirowitz, A., & Tucker, J. A. (2013). People Power or a one-shot deal? A dynamic model of protest. American Journal of Political Science, 57(2), 478-490. doi:10.1111/ajps.12017

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