Thursday, May 24, 2007

Cost Effective?

Is it cheaper to use nonviolence rather than war to oust a dictator?

People passionately argue about the moral imperative of government action or inaction. "We need to remove Saddam Hussein! He's evil." Never mind the debate as to whether or not one government should mess in the business of another. Never mind that there are lots of evil dictators that outside governments do not try to remove. And never mind the rule of unintended consequences (that you could make a bad situation worse.) If you assume that one country (or coalition) has the right to remove another country's leader, and assuming that it is ethically justified, what's more effective and cheaper . . . war or nonviolence?

Of course, every case is in a unique cultural and historical context, but for the sake of discussion, let's look at two examples. Slobodan Milošević was ousted by a largely student-led group known as Otpor, then was held accountable to a number of charges. The eleven week, nonviolent campaign did have outside financial support from the United States to the tune of $1,000,000, was internally directed, and successful. A wonderful documentary, Bringing Down a Dictator, is a wonderful resource on "The Orange Revolution."

On the other hand, we have the on-going war in Iraq. As of today, at 8 AM, the cost is almost $428.5 billion dollars. The dictator was also removed, however the war and its expense is continuing after more than four years.

One million versus 428.5 billion. Both dictators ousted. One campaign lasted eleven weeks, the other continues after four years.

And we aren't even talking about the number of lives lost.

1 comment:

Interim Grab said...

I really like the theme of your blog and this article was especially eye opening. It's easy to become totally blindsided by the US media/press machine that non-violence is not an option when dealing with a violent dictator, and yet, there are non-violent movements like you described with the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, which are making positive change. Even when change takes a long time like in Mynmar and in Tibet, I have much more respect for their methods than for the US war machine. The Dalai Lama is my personal hero!