Nonviolence Goes Mainstream: A Surprising Result of the Syrian Tragedy – Part III

Political Realism Needs to Discover Nonviolent Social Change

When I start to hear in forums around Washington in the last few months that the people of Syria might have been better off without a violent revolution then we are witnessing a slow learning curve of the political realists. From Afghanistan to Iraq to Syria they are beginning to see the absurdity of embracing guns that give rise to everything they fear the most from the Middle East. The horror of the present makes the courageous crowds in Syria of 2011 something of a wondrous miracle, a proud pluralistic mass movement of social change, without the insanity of ideological extremism.

The lesson is simple. We activists must be much more prepared to massively support every nonviolent turn in social history across the world, but we also must be accompanied by policy makers who at the very least stay out of the way with their guns and prevent their allies from rushing armed teenagers into every ailing situation. At best we need policy makers to support a worldwide global trend toward intelligent, thoughtful, strategic approaches to solidarity and social change from within every culture, no matter how currently repressed by undemocratic regimes.

What will happen in Syria next is difficult to predict. The West may in fact come in with more force, the Syrian state may in fact break up and destabilize Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq, non-conventional weapons may be released over borders or into the hands of terrorists despite Israel’s pinpoint bombings. Much is possible in this Hobbesian chaos. But two truths are certain, the Syrian people of 2011 are no more. Their homes and cities and towns are gone, their demonstrations together for freedom and democracy are gone, and everyone, every neighbor, every sect, lost a world as a result.

The second truth is this: If there is any hope for the Syrian people, or any other people caught in the razor edge of geopolitical standoffs it is in the solidarity and will of courageous people who cut across lines of ethnicity and mad divisions, and who instead forge, with everyone else’s strong support, a collective vision of a nonviolent and tolerant future shared equally by all.  There are millions of Middle Easterners who yearn for this option; global activists and policy makers have a duty to meet them on this journey.

© Marc Gopin