Summary of "Introduction: Strategic Nonviolent Conflict"

Summary of

Introduction: Strategic Nonviolent Conflict

By Peter Ackerman and Christopher Kruegler

Summary written by: Tanya Glaser, Conflict Research Consortium

Citation: Peter Ackerman and Christopher Kruegler, "Introduction," in Strategic Nonviolent Conflict, (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 1994), p. xix-xxiv.

Ackerman and Kruegler argue that the use of nonviolent action in conflicts is on the increase. In their Introduction to the text, the authors list a number of features of the contemporary international scene which may encourage the increased use of nonviolent action. They note that NGOs are playing larger roles and wielding increasing power in international affairs. "Nonstate actors may find that their particular attributes and capabilities make them especially well suited to waging nonviolent conflict."[xxi]

Ethnic conflicts are on the rise globally. Given the potential of ethnic conflicts to escalate dramatically and violently, and so to provoke international censure, ethnic groups may well turn toward nonviolent conflict to press their demands. Marginalized groups have not been very successful in using terrorism to achieve their goals. Groups which had resorted to terrorism may turn to nonviolent strategies, which have had a somewhat better success rate.

Nonviolent resistance may be used as a form of civilian-based national defense. This approach prepares the general population to use nonviolent resistance should another power attempt to invade. The goal is to make it impossible to successfully occupy and govern the invaded territory. Civilian-based defense may be an appealing option to small states which have no realistic hope of defending themselves by military force.

It has often been thought that nonviolent action is most effective in democratic states. The authors suggest instead that nonviolent conflict may be a precursor to democratization. "Effective nonviolent conflict may be shown to precede, abet, and defend the democratizing process."[xxiii] And so supporting nonviolent action is one way to encourage and support democratization.

Finally, they note that technological advances, especially in communications, have made strategic nonviolence easier to use and more effective. They have also created new opportunities for nonviolent action. The authors caution, however, that technology in and of itself does not give an advantage to nonviolent actors. Technology can also be used to dominate and oppress. Ultimately, nonviolent actors must always out perform their adversaries in order to succeed.