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A defense of honest inquiry, and of Gene Sharp.

by geezer in Paris Tue Feb 22nd, 2011 at 06:37:51 AM EST

This is a one-off diary for me. I don't do this. Except for now.
To understand the reasons for this diary, it would be useful to read my earlier diary, "Who is Gene Sharp?". I also obviously think it's important enough to risk appearing to flog a dead horse. If you don't choose to do this, you might still enjoy the document here in defense of Gene Sharp. It includes a who's who of the eloquent left around the world.
Interesting in itself.


   I stepped out to do my homework when stevesim posted an excerpt from an attack on Dr. Sharp from Voltaire.net, that portrayed him as an active participant in a CIA manipulation scheme.

I'm not familiar with Voltaire.net, so last night, when I should have been sleeping, I set out to find out what exactly stevesim has dropped among us.
I found an English translation of the piece about Gene Sharp's nefarious doings, and read it, and the references, and everything else I could find about the men who supposedly played supporting roles in the chaotic collage of travels, doings, influences and damnable duplicity it describes.
Ivonne, who speaks quite good French, worked her way through the original as well as what supporting material in French we could find.
At 2AM Paris time, we quit, having dug the hole as deep as we could.

First, here's a snippet to set the tone:

"When the U.S began its rearmament in 1998, [8] the Albert Einstein Institution became part of an expansionist strategy. It provided ideology and technique to Otpor («Resistance»), a group of Slobodan Milosevic's young opponents. Simultaneously, it intervened in Kosovo province to train Ibrahim Rugova's LDK, but it turned useless for Washington during the Kosovo war. Then, Otpor quickly became a choice to overthrow Milosevic who was very popular for resisting NATO. Colonel Helvey trained Otpor's leaders through seminars hosted at Hilton Hotel in Budapest. Money was not a problem to overthrow Europe's last communist government. The person in charge of commanding the operation was agent Paul B. McCarthy, discreetly settled at Moskva hotel in Belgrade until Milosevic's resignation in October 2000.
In September 2002, Gene Sharp went to The Hague to train the members of the Iraqi National Council who were preparing themselves to return to Iraq, along with the American army.
In September 2003, it was also the Albert Einstein Institution who advised the opposition to question the electoral results and go on demonstrations to force Eduard Shevardnadze's resignation [9] during the «revolution» of the roses in Georgia.
When the CIA-organized-coup against Venezuela failed in April 2002, the State Department counted again on the Albert Einstein Institution which advised the owners of enterprises during the organization of the revocatory referendum against President Hugo Chávez. Gene Sharp and his team led the leaders of Súmate during the demonstrations of August 2004. As done before, the only thing they had to do was questioning the electoral results and demanding the resignation of the president. They managed to get the bourgeoisie out in the street but Chavez's popular government was to strong. All in all, international observers had no other choice but to recognize Hugo Chávez's victory."

Note the footnote (8).

So. Is it true? From the article itself and from the footnotes, we'll never know. Here's why.

This footnote is like almost all the other footnotes. Which is to say, not a link to an outside, supporting source at all, but a link to other internally authored documents, statements of editorial and political opinion, or a link to similar articles, which in turn link to other Voltaire.net documents.  Taken together, they form a bubble, as hermetic as any anti-communist or right-wing tabloid. There are a few links that lead out of the bubble, but they are rare, and tend to lead to other like-minded sites or documents.

But--what of the picture? There he is- our boy, right there with the two mentioned figures, Srdja Popovic and Robert Helvey, flanking Gene Sharp.

 Unless we want to maintain the thing was a shopped image, which seems a bit over the top, it would seem they were at least all together.

The most effective lies are those which are mixed with true events or ideas, and endlessly repeated. It was our conclusion, after a lot of work, that Voltaire net, in this case at least, was jiving us.
As I read around in Voltaire net, and in the rest of the documents that comprised the attack on Gene Sharp  referenced in the Zinn-Chomsky letter of defense, I began to get a whiff of an old, rank smell- one long buried in memory, but a scent linked with something important. It finally emerged- it was this:
Two personal discoveries from my childhood:

None Dare Call it Treason, by John Stormer, 1964, and

I Led Three Lives,  A television serial, 1953-1956.

None Dare Call it Treason was a paranoid screed and serial character assassination piece which became the bible of the John Birch Society. It described the infiltration of American government and society by communists, and helped us to understand such things as the true nature of Rock N' Roll as a communist plot to poison the minds of American youth. Its style and substance served as a key element in my as-yet uncompleted personal crap detector. Its style bore a strong resemblance to many of the pieces on Gene Sharp- descriptive, almost dead-pan narration with an admixture of fact and references to more self-composed screed. Actually, NDCT had real footnotes that referenced real events outside the bubble, but it then told you how to see the true nature of, say, the United Nations as a commie plot to suck off American Sovereignty and substitute a red-controlled one-world government. It was not subtle.
Similarly, (Credit:Wikipedia)
 

"I Led Three Lives is an American drama series which was syndicated by Ziv Television Programs from October 1, 1953 to January 1, 1956. The series stars Richard Carlson. The show was a companion piece of sorts to the radio drama I Was a Communist for the FBI, which dealt with a similar subject and was also syndicated by Ziv from 1952 to 1954.
It was loosely based on the life of Herbert Philbrick, a Boston advertising executive who infiltrated the U.S. Communist Party on behalf of the FBI in the 1940s and wrote a bestselling book on the topic, I Led Three Lives: Citizen, 'Communist', Counterspy (1952). The part of Philbrick was played by Richard Carlson.
I Led Three Lives lasted 117 episodes. Philbrick narrated each episode and served as a technical consultant -- and all scripts were approved by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. Nonetheless, the episodes often had very little to do with the actual events of Philbrick's life, with plotlines taking Philbrick on journeys to Europe and South America. They gradually became more and more outlandish, featuring such supposed "Communist plots" as an attempt to convert vacuum cleaners into bomb launchers.
The show was a favorite of accused presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald when he was a teenager."

As a child I watched enough of these episodes to add their style, their feel and flavor- their scent- to the crap detector.
Voltaire.net offers no real chance to verify the truth of their accusations. One has every reason to doubt the  usefulness of what little evidential support they offer for their interpretation of events.
Still, there was the picture, the seemingly-damning chain of events, and that tempting, easy guilt by association. So I read as much of the rest of the attacks on Sharp as I could find, and it was the same- the smell of what I have come to call
"Bubble-Think".
After a lot of work, it seems far more likely to me that Gene Sharp is the one who is on the wrong end of a determined, professional campaign to discredit him. Sharp, and all others who are effective in helping people come together and successfully oppose the existing power structure.

I accept that only a scholar with detailed knowledge of the times and players would be in a position to make a systematic judgement on the truth or falseness of the chronology, or unravel the individual knots that hold the picture together.

 A "smell of corruption", personally sensed, is not enough.

Fortunately, we all have such a judgment. We have the collective judgment of a host of scholars of the times and players.

I ask your patience for the length of this quote, but I felt that to edit out the names of supporters, or to paraphrase the document would have been gauche, disrespectful, just as to paraphrase Stephane Hessel would be. Their service and stature deserves a full reading.

Here it is:

"     Open Letter in Support of Gene Sharp and Strategic Nonviolent Action

As scholars and activists in longstanding opposition to efforts by the U.S. government - either directly or indirectly - to overthrow, undermine, subvert, or otherwise intervene in the internal affairs of other nations, we wish to go on record in defense of Dr. Gene Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution.

Dr. Sharp is widely recognized as one of the world's leading authorities on strategic nonviolent action. He serves as the founder and senior scholar of the Albert Einstein Institution, a small nonprofit organization advancing the study and utilization of nonviolent conflict in defense of freedom, justice and democracy.

During the past year and a half, Dr. Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution have been subjected to a series of false accusations by a number of foreign governments of receiving guidance and financial support from the Bush administration, working with the CIA, and engaging in activities designed to promote U.S. imperialism. These and other groundless charges have also appeared in a series of articles which have been posted in recent months on a number of progressive web sites and elsewhere as if they were true. We, however, reject such claims categorically. We are aware of, and are adamantly opposed to, efforts by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the International Republican Institute (IRI) and other U.S. government-funded efforts to advance U.S. strategic and economic objectives under the guise of "democracy promotion." We recognize, however, that Dr. Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution are not part of such an agenda.

Rather than being a tool of imperialism, Dr. Sharp's research and writings have inspired generations of progressive peace, labor, feminist, human rights, environmental, and social justice activists in the United States and around the world. There have also been a small number of individuals who have taken advantage of resources offered by Dr. Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution whose commitment to justice and equality are questionable. The nature of the Institution's work, however, is transpartisan, cutting across political boundaries and conceptions, making its resources available to virtually anyone who is interested in learning about strategic nonviolent action. Providing educational materials and consultation on strategic nonviolent action to particular individuals, therefore, should not be misinterpreted as endorsing their ideological agenda or as evidence of collaboration with any government. As with similar false charges which have recently appeared regarding the work of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict (ICNC), the Center for Applied Nonviolent Actions and Strategies (CANVAS), and similar groups, critics confuse the Albert Einstein Institution's willingness to provide generic information on the history and dynamics of strategic nonviolent action with nefarious efforts by the U.S. government to undermine foreign governments critical of U.S. hegemonic goals and neoliberal economic policies.

Except for receiving a couple of small one-time grants from the NED and IRI (well prior to the Bush administration coming to office) in order to translate some of Dr. Sharp's theoretical writings, the Albert Einstein Institution has never received any money from any government or government-funded entity. Nor does Dr. Sharp or the Albert Einstein Institution collaborate with the CIA, the NED, or any U.S. government or government-funded agencies; nor has Dr. Sharp or the Albert Einstein Institution ever provided financial or logistical support to any opposition groups in any country; nor has Dr. Sharp or the Albert Einstein Institution ever taken sides in political conflicts or engaged in strategic planning with any group.

The Albert Einstein Institution operates with a very minimal budget out of Dr. Sharp's home with a staff consisting of two people - Dr. Sharp and a young administrator - and is quite incapable of carrying out the foreign intrigues of which it has been falsely accused. Unlike some U.S.-funded "democracy-promotion" projects which assist pro-Western elites in top-down institution-building efforts and sophisticated political campaigns with the goal of seizing power, the Albert Einstein Institution, ICNC, CANVAS and related groups work primarily with grassroots activists who seek to empower civil society through nonviolent direct action regardless of their particular government's relations with the United States.

More fundamentally, these recent attacks against Dr. Sharp, the Albert Einstein Institution and similar groups represent a gross misunderstanding of the nature of strategic nonviolent action in the struggle for political freedom.

Indeed, those who attempt to dismiss recent popular nonviolent struggles against autocratic regimes as somehow being instigated and controlled by Western powers invalidate the ability of the millions of people who have placed their bodies on the line for freedom and justice to think for themselves or play a decisive role in determining their own nations' future. The United States is no more responsible for the recent nonviolent liberal democratic revolutions in Eastern Europe than the Soviet Union was responsible for earlier armed leftist revolutions in Central America. Every successful popular nonviolent insurrection has been rooted in the belief by the majority of people that their rulers were illegitimate and the current political system was incapable of redressing injustice, thereby no longer deserving their obedience or cooperation. Unlike a military coup or other U.S.-backed efforts at "regime change," it is virtually impossible for any nonviolent insurrection to succeed when the movement's leadership and agenda does not have the backing of the majority of the population.

The popular nonviolent uprisings which led to the overthrow of corrupt and undemocratic regimes in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine earlier this decade - like similar movements which ousted U.S.-backed dictatorships in the Philippines, Chile, Mali, Bolivia, and other countries in previous decades - were a result of independent actions by the people of those nations struggling for their rights. As a result, neither Gene Sharp nor any other foreign individual, organization or government deserves the credit or the blame for their victories.

Nonviolent struggle has historically been the weapon of the poor and disenfranchised through which they can gain an advantage over powerful and wealthy elites whose capacity to use violence against them is usually far superior. It is therefore ironic that some of those who view themselves as champions of oppressed peoples mis-characterize these popular nonviolent movements simply as tools of U.S. imperialism and global capital.

We therefore call upon people of conscience to reject the false allegations leveled against Gene Sharp, the Albert Einstein Institute and other groups promoting strategic nonviolent action; to continue to struggle against U.S. imperialism in all of its manifestations; and, to support popular democratic movements engaging in nonviolent action in the cause of human rights and social justice in the United States and throughout the world.

Signatories - organizations for identification purposes only

1. Howard Zinn
Author, historian
2. Noam Chomsky
Massachusetts Institute of
Technology
3. George Lakey
Swarthmore College
4. Paul Ortiz
University of California -
Santa Cruz
5. Mary Bull
Greenwood Earth Alliance
6. Richard Deats
Fellowship of
Reconciliation
7. Mubarak Awad
Nonviolence International
8. Scott Kennedy
Resource Center for
Nonviolence
9. Patrick Coy
Kent State University
10. David Hartsough
Peaceworkers
11. Stephen Zunes
University of San
Francisco
12. Frida Berrigan
World Policy Institute
13. Bill Sutherland
Pan-Africanist activist
14. Greg Bates
Common Courage Press
15. Elizabeth McAllister
Jonah House
16. Sandino Gomez
Brown Berets
17. Matt Meyer
Peace & Justice Studies
Association
18. Michael Beer
Nonviolence International
19. Seelan Palay
Artist & Activist
20. Dr Clinton Fernandes
University of New South
Wales
21. Daniel Hunter
Training for Change
22. Evan Weissman
Playwright, Nonviolence
Teacher
23. Nanlouise Wolfe
Resource Center for
Nonviolence
24. Kathleen S Pearce
Private citizen
25. Howard Clark
War Resisters''
International
26. Daniel Ellsberg
Truth-telling Project
27. Bert Garskof
Quinnipiac University
28. Joseph J. Fahey
Manhattan College
29. Sam Diener
Co-Editor, Peacework
Magazine, AFSC
30. Randy Schutt
Vernal Education Project
31. Marc Pilisuk
Saybrook Graduate School
32. David Finke
Peace & Civil Rights
activist
33. Barry L. Gan
St. Bonaventure University
34. Esther Franklin
Retired Ed. Consultant
35. Jacob Freeze
http://jacobfreeze.com
36. Christine Schweitzer
Institute for Peace Work
and Nonviolent Conflict
Transformation, Germany
37. Andrew Rigby
Coventry University, UK
38. Jørgen Johansen
Coventry University
39. Martin Arnold
Arbeitsgruppe Guetekraft
40. Bob Manizza
Citizen
41. Shel Horowitz
Business Ethics Pledge
42. Karen Monroe
VSYR
43. John Sniegocki
Xavier University -
Cincinnati
44. James A. Joyce
retired professor of Peace
and Justice studies.
45. Dan Clore
The Soylent Green Party
46. B. Allan Ross
United Gay Force
47. Stephen R. Shalom
William Paterson
University
48. Galia Goodman
Galia Graphics
49. Herbert Standing
Iowa historian
50. Robert A. Irwin
Massachusetts Institute of
Technology
51. Jacqueline Haessly
Peacemaking Associates
52. George & Lillian
Willoughby
60 years nonviolent social
change activism
53. Steve Chase
Antioch University's
Environmental Advocacy
and Organizing Program
54. Patty Lyman
Seattle Labor Chorus
55. Frances Delahanty
Pace University
56. Fred V. Cook
Social Movement
Empowerment Project
57. Martyn Lowe
Peace Activist &
Information Worker
58. Alice Maes
Vinegar Lane Associates
59. Ellie Clement
Commonweal Collection,
Bradford, UK
60. Emmett J Murphy
Sarasota Friends Meeting
61. Detlef Beck
Trainer for constrctive
conflict resolution and
mediator
62. Martha Dickinson
Ellsworth (ME) Area
Peace and Justice
63. John M Miller
War Resisters League
64. Paul A. Olson
University of Nebraska
65. Herb Ettel
Activist Media
66. Joan H. Drake
Women''s International
League for Peace &
Freedom
4
67. Shodo Spring
Buddhist Peace Fellowship
68. Michael D. Adams
Swamp Fox Brigade -
npcia@bellsouth.net

  1. Gayle Davies
  2. Matthew Rothschild
The Progressive Magazine
71. John Feffer
Foreign Policy In Focus
72. Dr Michael Randle
Writer & Researcher,
formerly Visiting Research
Fellow, Department of
Peace Studies, Bradford
Unversity, UK
  1. Anne Wright
  2. Paul Loeb
Author, Soul of a Citizen
75. Lynn Grasberg
Humor Relations
Associates
76. Christian Büttner
Archiv Aktiv e.V.
77. Gerald W. Schlabach
University of St. Thomas
(MN)
78. John Braxton
Philadelphia Branch, US
Labor Against the War
79. Paul Engler
The Center For the
Working Poor
80. Larry Dansinger
Resources for Organizing
and Social Change,
Monroe, ME
81. Gordon Fellman
Brandeis University
82. Amentahru Wahlrab
Illinois State University
83. Ira Chernus
University of Colorado
84. Louis Kriesberg
Conflict resolution analyst
85. Leo R. Sandy
Plymouth State University
86. David Swanson
AfterDowningStreet.org
87. Parke Burgess
www.ourtragicflaw.com
88. Anthony Newkirk
American School of Kuwait
89. Dion Economopoulos
AGX
90. Lo Auer
Dandelion Salad blog
91. Tammy Murphy
School of Oriental and
African Studies, University
of London & Arcadia
University
92. Scott J. MacDonald
U.S.A.
93. Chris Hables Gray
The Union Institute and
University
94. Greg Guma
Author, Journalist
95. Kelly Rae Kraemer
College of St. Benedict/St.
John''s University
96. B. Beth Cohen
Ithaca, NY
97. Michael Nagler
Metta Center
98. Michael Bass
SOA Watch
  1. Frank Kolwicz
  2. Leyre Alejaldre Biel
UNIS
101. Pete Perry
Washington Peace Center
102. mark lance
philosopher, activist
103. John W Lango
Hunter College
104. Rene Wadlow
Association of World
Citizens
105. Dr Stellan Vinthagen,
Senior Lecturer
School pf Global Studies
106. Nina Huizinga
United for Peace and
Justice
107. Rubén Campos Palarea
Complutense University
(Madrid-Spain)
108. Binesh Hassanpour
Univeristy of Toronto
109. Donald Grayston
Simon Fraser University
110. Philippe Duhamel
Via Strategia
111. Cynthia Boaz
Sonoma State University
112. Kurt Schock
Rutgers University -
Newark
113. Catherine Morris
Peacemakers Trust
114. Dr Janet Cherry
Nelson Mandela
Metropolitan University
115. Nathan Stoltzfus
Florida State University
116. Peter R Neumann
King's College London
117. David Hartsough
PEACEWROKERS
118. Carolyn Scarr
Ecumenical Peace
Institute/CALC
119. Jason C. Waite
United Aid |UA|
120. Jean Marichez
Ecole de la Paix Grenoble
121. Ray Torres
Witness for Peace
122. Prof. Dr. Theodor Ebert
Otto-Suhr Institut, Free
University of Berlin
123. Dr. Ute Finckh
Bund für Soziale
Verteidigung/Federation
for Social Defense,
Germany
124. Brian Martin
University of Wollongong
125. Kathrin Vogler
Federation for Social
Defence - Germany
126. Veronique Dudouet
Berghof Research Center
for Constructive Conflict
Management, Berlin
127. Anthony Kelly
Australian Nonviolence
Network
128. Markley Morris
Activist
129. Lisa Clark
Blessed Are the
Peacemakers
130. Charles Johnson
Molinari Institute
131. Daniel Buk
Manhattan College
132. Joseph Tonan
Private Individual
  1. Clark Rieke
  2. Metta Spencer
Peace Magazine
135. Ken Simons
Peace Magazine
136. Lee Smithey
Swarthmore College
137. Dr. Premraj Pushpakaran,
Pranavam, Kotte canal rd,
Kochi - 682018, Kerala,
India,
pranavam research
138. Jason MacLeod
the Change Agency

Display:
The Open Letter (PDF) was written in the following context
In June 2008, at the initiative of Professor Stephen Zunes of the University of San Francisco, the letter below was circulated among U.S. and internationally based scholars and activists as a response to critiques circulating about the work of Gene Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution. The letter first appeared on Professor Zunes's website (http://www.stephenzunes.org/petition/) and is now available for viewing on the website of the Albert Einstein Institution (www.aeinstein.org).


Keynesianism is intellectually hard, as evidenced by the inability of many trained economists to get it - Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 22nd, 2011 at 06:49:36 AM EST
The Open Letter says
We are aware of, and are adamantly opposed to, efforts by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the International Republican Institute (IRI) and other U.S. government-funded efforts to advance U.S. strategic and economic objectives under the guise of "democracy promotion." We recognize, however, that Dr. Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institution are not part of such an agenda.
ThatBritGuy in his Yes - who is Gene Sharp?
Not even the basic facts are true. Sharp certainly isn't lacking cash or connections. He may not choose to spend the money on bling, but even if he earns "only" $100k a year - plus expenses - that's more than US workers earn. And the annual reports of the Albert Einstein Institution show that it has received multi-million dollar donations. (Conveniently, the sources aren't named, but Sourcewatch has some of them.)
Albert Einstein Institution - SourceWatch

Between 1993 and 1999 they received funding from[5]:



Keynesianism is intellectually hard, as evidenced by the inability of many trained economists to get it - Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Feb 22nd, 2011 at 06:56:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jeez, I missed that. I could perhaps have saved you some work, Geezer ... Nobody takes Thierry Meyssan (the voltaire.net fellow) seriously. Or perhaps a few tinfoil-hat wearers, 9/11 conspiracy theorists, and the like.

A creditable effort of deconstruction, still.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue Feb 22nd, 2011 at 01:00:57 PM EST
Yeah well, the thing that struck me was the old familiar smell of people who begin with the conclusion, then cherry-pick the world for support.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 01:03:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For what little it's worth I ran across Voltair.net on some research on an Italian lead. I dimissed the article- and Voltaire.net- as mendacious codswallop.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue Feb 22nd, 2011 at 07:25:04 PM EST
Codswallop.
Thanks. I'm adding that to my repertoire of grievously gratuitous insults.

Fits.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 12:18:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Francis Wheen first used it.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 01:54:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have had a little email and phone contact with Gene Sharp through my interest in Gandhian economics, a subject that he has not looked into deeply, by his own admission.

At the time, I was aware that Colonel Helvey was using Sharp's work with non-violent tactics to help Otpor.  I looked briefly at Helvey's book which is still available at http://www.aeinstein.org/organizations/org/OSNC.pdf

The use of Gandhian tactics by the US DOD does give me pause.  My suspicion is that even the most virtuous ideas can be co-opted.  This doesn't mean that I believe Gene Sharp is a tool of imperialists.  It means I have my doubts about Colonel Helvey.  However, I reserve judgement until I study his work.

Solar IS Civil Defense

by gmoke on Tue Feb 22nd, 2011 at 10:24:59 PM EST
How nice. Someone else who checks his ammo before firing.

If the objective is to reduce the amount of blood shed around the world (without necessarily eliminating it), I see no reason why it would be a bad thing for the DOD to adopt tactics a bit more along the lines advocated by Sharp, as opposed to the usual drone attack or other such mechanized slaughter.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 12:23:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The undisputed fact seems to be that a certain Colonel Helvey is associated with Gene Sharp and with funnelling resources to some of the grassroots organizations that helped topple Milosevic. Also that Sharp's AEI has received funding from the perhaps Orwellianly named National Endowment for Democracy.

Given those facts, there are various interpretations.

One is that the DoD, CIA, etc are coopting others' scholarship, tactics and organizations when it suits their purposes.

The other is that this scholarship, tactics and organizations are actually undercover Psyops by the DoD and the CIA.

There are more, just like there are various interpretations of the undisputed fact that the NYT wrote an article about Gena Sharp and Egypt. Is the NYT trying to find the white man responsible for the brown people doing the right thing? Looking for the white man their readers can relate to even if they have a minor role? Trying to fit the Egyptian revolt into their "each revolution has its color/flower/fabric" meme? Uncovering the CIA/DoD behind same in a bout of investigative journalism? Giving away the DoD/CIA game they are themselves part of in an incompetent attempt to appear journalistic?

The debate, then, becomes not about the facts but about the colour of the glasses one should use to look at them.

Coincidentally, my sister just shared this video with me on facebook:

The whole video is interesting but the conclusion relevant to this discussion starts at 5'10".

Keynesianism is intellectually hard, as evidenced by the inability of many trained economists to get it - Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 02:32:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is the NYT trying to find the white man responsible for the brown people doing the right thing?

The white men responsible are Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg. That's already in the standard western version. And Obama (yes, I know he's not really white...) for giving the Cairo speech that started the whole thing (If you think this is off the wall, think of Reagan's "Tear down this wall!" bringing down the Soviet Union). One hardly needs Gene Sharp if you want to make up a U.S-based myth for the uprising.

More likely, the NYT just wanted to find an angle nobody else had covered, to make up for having otherwise missed the whole story. It's a lot easier covering a story where most of the material is already in English....

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 02:39:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No evidence as usual, just generalised claims. Of course I'm not saying the NYT is perfect, just that one might be as fair as one expects them to be. Where there are faults they should be condemned, but evidence should be supplied, as one also requires them to do.

They "missed" the story ? Here's an early report, no mention of any "white men" and emphasis on how wide-ranging support for the protests was:

The protests, at least partly inspired by the toppling of the authoritarian government in Tunisia, began small but grew all day, with protesters occupying one of Cairo's central squares. Security forces, which normally prevent major public displays of dissent, initially struggled to suppress the demonstrations, allowing them to swell.

But early Wednesday morning, firing rubber bullets, tear gas and concussion grenades, the police finally drove groups of demonstrators from the square, as the sit-in was transformed into a spreading battle involving thousands of people and little restraint. Plainclothes officers beat several demonstrators, and protesters flipped over a police car and set it on fire.

Protests also flared in Alexandria, Suez, Mansura and Beni Suef. There were reports of three deaths and many injuries around the country.

Photographers in Alexandria caught people tearing up a large portrait of Mr. Mubarak. An Internet video of demonstrations in Mahalla el-Kubra showed the same, while a crowd snapped cellphone photos and cheered. The acts -- rare, and bold here -- underscored the anger coursing through the protests and the challenge they might pose to the aging and ailing Egyptian leader.

Several observers said the protests represented the largest display of popular dissatisfaction in recent memory, perhaps since 1977, when people across Egypt violently protested the elimination of subsidies for food and other basic goods.

It was not clear whether the size and intensity of the demonstrations -- which seemed to shock even the protesters -- would or could be sustained.

The government quickly placed blame for the protests on Egypt's largest opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, which is tolerated but officially banned. In a statement, the Interior Ministry said the protests were the work of "instigators" led by the Muslim Brotherhood, while the movement declared that it had little to do with them.

The reality that emerged from interviews with protesters -- many of whom said they were independents -- was more complicated and reflected one of the government's deepest fears: that opposition to Mr. Mubarak's rule spreads across ideological lines and includes average people angered by corruption and economic hardship as well as secular and Islamist opponents. That broad support could make it harder for the government to co-opt or crush those demanding change.

"The big, grand ideological narratives were not seen today," said Amr Hamzawy, research director of the Carnegie Middle East Center. "This was not about `Islam is the solution' or anything else."

Instead, the protests seemed to reflect a spreading unease with Mr. Mubarak on issues from extension of an emergency law that allows arrests without charge, to his presiding over a stagnant bureaucracy that citizens say is incapable of handling even basic responsibilities. Their size seemed to represent a breakthrough for opposition groups harassed by the government as they struggle to break Mr. Mubarak's monopoly on political life.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/26/world/middleeast/26egypt.html



Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 06:16:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you're missing the point of the "white man" comment. I was merely pointing out that the ingredients for building a myth of this sort are already there, so there's no need to bring in Gene Sharp for this purpose. I wasn't actually claiming that they were already doing this already (as I think my reference to Obama's speech should have made clear).

As to your quote, my point was that the demonstrations were partly a culmination of a series of labour protests over the past few years. All your quote shows is that there were many reasons for people joining the current protests, which isn't that surprising. You've convinced me elsewhere that the NYT eventually covered this aspect, but not that they did so early on during the protests (or before, though I did find one NYT article of one major strike from 2008; maybe you can do better).

Thi s isn't really a problem that is in any way specific to the NYT, but reflects a natural tendency of all media groups to focus on the new media aspect of a story, since that is what they are familiar with, and that is the easiest way for them to get information. We're only focusing here on the NYT because they seem to have been the source of the Gene Sharp story.

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 06:51:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]

You still don't justify this: "having otherwise missed the whole story."  The story cited is from the beginning of the protests, makes it clear that the opposition is wide-ranging. Later reports, as you acknowledge, go into the background more and deal with the recent history of strikes - which  "partly" lead up to the revolution.

The coverage of the new media aspect was not just because it was "familiar" to them, but because, as is widely acknowledged, it did play a significant role in building suppport for and organising the revolution, and here's another reference to earlier strikes:


Published: February 5, 2011

Its power and importance has been building for years. In 2008, the April 6 Youth Movement used Facebook to gain more than 70,000 supporters to help raise awareness for striking workers in Mahalla al-Kobra, Egypt.

In the last two years, that movement and other human rights advocates have also turned to Twitter and to YouTube, the third most visited Web site in Egypt after Google and Facebook. YouTube, which human rights advocates have used to upload dozens of videos showing Egyptian police torture and abuse, has evolved as an enormously powerful social media tool as more people have been able to capture and share video on cellphones.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/06/world/middleeast/06face.html




Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 07:41:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The coverage of the new media aspect was not just because it was "familiar" to them, but because, as is widely acknowledged, it did play a significant role in building suppport for and organising the revolution

Widely recognised by whom? The people who were actually bleeding and sweating in the streets, or the people who were looking on from outside? In the former case, how do we know? Who has had feet on the ground that understood the local language and were familiar with local conditions?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 08:07:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Already cited here a few times- some of the Egyptians centrally involved in organising the revolution  say so:

They are the young professionals, mostly doctors and lawyers, who touched off and then guided the revolt shaking Egypt, members of the Facebook generation who have remained mostly faceless -- very deliberately so, given the threat of arrest or abduction by the secret police.

Now, however, as the Egyptian government has sought to splinter their movement by claiming that officials were negotiating with some of its leaders, they have stepped forward publicly for the first time to describe their hidden role.

There were only about 15 of them, including Wael Ghonim, a Google executive who was detained for 12 days but emerged this week as the movement's most potent spokesman.

Yet they brought a sophistication and professionalism to their cause -- exploiting the anonymity of the Internet to elude the secret police, planting false rumors to fool police spies, staging "field tests" in Cairo slums before laying out their battle plans, then planning a weekly protest schedule to save their firepower -- that helps explain the surprising resilience of the uprising they began.

...
Mr. Elaimy, who was imprisoned four times and suffered multiple broken limbs from torture for his political work, now works as an assistant to Mohamed ElBaradei, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the International Atomic Energy Agency. In turn, his group built ties to other young organizers like Ms. Moore.

The seeds of the revolt were planted around the time of the uprising in Tunisia, when Walid Rachid, 27, a liaison from an online group called the April 6 Movement, sent a note to the anonymous administrator of an anti-torture Facebook page asking for "marketing help" with a day of protest on Jan. 25, Mr. Rachid recalled. He wondered why the administrator would communicate only by Google instant message. In fact, it was someone he already knew: Mr. Ghonim, the Google executive.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/10/world/middleeast/10youth.html



Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 10:56:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
 Cf.:

Keen to preserve their achievements, the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution, which includes members of the April 6 Youth Movement, the Muslim Brotherhood Youth and young supporters of Mohamed ElBaradei, plan to form their own opposition party.

During the protests, they were successful in mobilising the Egyptian people with the help of social media. But as the roadmap for the future is planned, will their voices be heard in the clamour for real change?

http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/insidestory/2011/02/20112148266284265.html



Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 11:07:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That tells us what the ElBaradei faction thinks, and who they are. It doesn't tell us how influential that faction is, or what role they played.

I'm not saying they aren't central, let alone that they played no role. But I'm not prepared to take the American press' word for it, and your Al Jazeera quote only mentions them as one faction among several.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 02:18:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, yeah.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 02:42:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What, you mean I should take the American press' word for it?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 02:44:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
tells a compelling narrative that has this small group organising in poor neighbourhoods, organising feints, etc. to finally arrive in Tahrir Square with a crowd too numerous to dislodge by the police.

It hangs together. The Egyptian police are very good at keeping the lid on, they have done so for 30 years while there has been no shortage of people with legitimate grievances.

Unless someone can come up with a plausible competing narrative as to how Tahrir Square got occupied (and I think we can agree that this was the indispensible catalyst of the revolution), I'm happy with this one. Even if it was printed by the NYT.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 03:46:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But there is an alternative, and not prima facie less compelling, narrative. Namely that the mass protests in Egypt were the culmination of a number of years' escalating labour conflicts, with the Tunisian revolt being the trigger that caused the conflicts at individual workplaces to coalesce into a coherent revolutionary movement.

I'm not arguing that that's the true version, or even that the two are mutually exclusive. But I am arguing that when attempting to ascertain their relative importance, you need to take the American press with a heavy dose of salt. Mass union organisation as a basis for democratic revolutions is so far outside its frame of reference (and what it is politically possible for it to print) that it is liable to underestimate its importance.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 04:05:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One is that the DoD, CIA, etc are coopting others' scholarship, tactics and organizations when it suits their purposes.

As usual.
The range of possibilities you suggest should, in fairness, include the option that Gene Sharp is just what his writings themselves seem to indicate.  The best way to evaluate that option is to read a piece or two of his writings, to sample fairly his ideas.
That's the position I have arrived at.

Then ask yourself if they lend themselves to CIA destabilization efforts.
I think, if I were an agancy analyst, I would see utility in his work. So --yes, I agree that co-option  could easily be happening, even likely.
I do not, however, find an iota of evidence that Dr. Sharp has himself willingly aided any project of any of the alphsabet soup purveyors of perfidy and cynicism. The symbol of Jesus has been co-opted for truly evil purposes.
But Sharp's tactics are, in the end, far more of a hazard for the agency than an asset, I think. If so, then what the signers of the letter above saw as a campaign of character assasination also makes sense.
The two positions are not mutually exclusive. at all, and are in fact common in the Machiavellian world of spooks.  

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.

by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 10:16:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My suspicion is that Gene Sharp is a genuine scholar of long-standing on non-violence strategy and tactics and that the US DOD is interested in studying his work in order to use it for their own purposes.  Sharp's motivations are not those of the DOD or the NYTimes or even of the protesters in Egypt, Libya, and Wisconsin who may be using his ideas for their own purposes.

Solar IS Civil Defense
by gmoke on Sun Feb 27th, 2011 at 05:14:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Back in my (far left) militant times, we used to say: "la droite a une vision policière de l'histoire" which would translate as "the right has a conspiracist vision of history. By "la droite", we meant the hard (and extreme) right, not the centre right. To be honest, this is also true for some currents in the extreme (authoritarian) left, which explains why we sometimes see odd alliances...

"People only accept change when they are faced with necessity, and only recognize necessity when a crisis is upon them." - Jean Monnet
by Melanchthon on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 08:33:48 AM EST
There are at least three completely separate issues being conflated here: non-violence, political conflict, and imperialism.

There appears to be a whole range of people (including possibly some signatories of the letter defending Sharpe) who appear to think conflict is bad, and even worse than conflict is conflict encouraged by a powerful party such as powerful, possibly imperialist, interests in the United States.

That is an extraordinarily naive and restrictionist view of both democracy and how to engage in political affairs among people. An alternative, more democratic conception is that contests over power are as inevitable a part of human being as love and sex, and that conflict is often a result of such contests.  Furthermore, such conflict can be as good as love and sex if conducted through non-violent means instead of through destructive force. Political domination (an extreme term used to illustrate my argument) by non-violent means (i.e., out-organizing political opponents) is therefore not in remotely the same category of human activity as domination through violent means -- killing people.

The Saul Alinsky school of community organizing puts it this way: There are two ways of organizing people to obtain the results of collective action: through violence, or through managing human relationships. If you're not doing it through relationships, then you are ceding the ground to those who will do it through violence.

Gene Sharpe, and Col. Helvey, and even US-government funded political organizers that have nothing to do with Sharpe, and might even include some CIA agents, are therefore doing good simply by engaging power through strictly non-violent means regardless of their political views regarding neo-liberalism or other "imperialist" frames.

Another way of putting this: Truth and justice are variables that are almost entirely independent of power, but only power can determine the outcome of any social conflict among people.  Therefore, truth and justice can only prevail over falsehood and injustice if justice-minded people are willing to engage seriously, and even ruthlessly with regards to managing human relationships, in political conflict with an intent to prevail over opponents. And engaging in such conflict -- becoming more powerful or even "imperialist" or "dominant" with respect to forces of falsehood and injustice -- is both good and a very useful and rewarding way of spending one's life.

by santiago on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 12:35:16 PM EST
santiago:
Political domination (an extreme term used to illustrate my argument) by non-violent means (i.e., out-organizing political opponents) is therefore not in remotely the same category of human activity as domination through violent means -- killing people.

The Saul Alinsky school of community organizing puts it this way: There are two ways of organizing people to obtain the results of collective action: through violence, or through managing human relationships. If you're not doing it through relationships, then you are ceding the ground to those who will do it through violence.

There's also economic dominance, economic force and organizing society through money.

Denying people money is not as destructive as killing them, but only just.

Keynesianism is intellectually hard, as evidenced by the inability of many trained economists to get it - Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 12:39:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Economics is a subset of human, power relationships. That just speaks to the independence of methods and justice. One can use a perfectly good non-violent method for organizing a theft of the poor for the benefit of the rich, and doing it that way is clearly superior to doing it through violence.  It doesn't, however, change the injustice of the outcome or the need for people to combat it.  What Sharpe's (and others such as Alinsky's) writing has shown is that there are serious alternatives to violence for combating injustice, usually more effective alternatives, that can be employed by justice-minded people.
by santiago on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 12:49:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I find myself, to my amazement, in full agreement.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 10:19:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And by "here," I mean this whole discussion, not this diary specifically, which I think mostly gets it.
by santiago on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 12:42:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"And engaging in such conflict -- becoming more powerful or even "imperialist" or "dominant" with respect to forces of falsehood and injustice -- is both good and a very useful and rewarding way of spending one's life."

I completely agree only adding that to me the key is knowing when to quit so as not to repeat the cycle.

by Jace on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 01:44:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
are therefore doing good simply by engaging power through strictly non-violent means regardless of their political views regarding neo-liberalism or other "imperialist" frames.

Well, no.

You cannot so neatly separate economic violence and physical violence. Economic violence is an inherent and inseparable part of neoliberal ideology. Privatising a poor man's drinking water kills him just as dead as a bullet to the head.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 02:19:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, that's just not true. Privatizing a poor person's drinking water, as bad as that might be, is in no way similar to shooting that person. Privatization may be reversed, for one thing, and it may be transgressed as well -- the poor person can simply refuse to cooperate with the privatization scheme and steal the water, for an extreme example.  Laws don't have to be obeyed in the same way that bullets must be.  And even without contesting the matter, privatization may also be adapted to for survival, at the very least, in ways that bullets cannot be.
by santiago on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 02:30:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think it would be instructive to compare the body count from bullets with the body count from economic deprivation in neoliberal dictatorships like Chile and Indonesia.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 02:43:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the strict cases if Chile and Indonesia, the body counts would almost certainly have to land on the side of the bullets, especially once you allow for the positive offsetting effects of markets on human well-being in addition to the negative ones.  Better exhibits for your argument would be the famines of Ethiopia and Bengal.
by santiago on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 02:55:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
especially once you allow for the positive offsetting effects of markets on human well-being in addition to the negative ones.

Ah, no, you don't get to do that, unless you wish to postulate that those positive effects would not have accrued under the alternative development path where social democrats had prevailed over neoliberals. The alternatives are not neoliberalism or autarky, neoliberal propaganda notwithstanding.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 03:40:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, you do have to do that. Markets both help as well as harm people, even the same people, and even if a net result can turn out to be negative over all. As an example, more expensive water has to be weighed against better access to cell phones. Bullets are a bit more restrictive in that respect. The cases where there can be an upside to being shot are pretty limited.
by santiago on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 03:49:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was not arguing that you couldn't count the positive effects of markets under Pinochet in favour of neoliberalism at all. I was simply pointing out that you can not count the positive effects that would also have accrued under Allende. Just as it would be unreasonable to count the negative effects of markets that would have accrued under Allende against Pinochet.

Another way to make the same point is that if the market for a firm's products increases by twenty per cent, and a company's sales go up only fifteen per cent, then the CEO is underperforming by five percentage points, not overperforming by fifteen.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 03:58:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I see what you're saying.  Good point.
by santiago on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 05:18:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What's this? Intelligent discourse working?

On ET?  

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 05:44:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Print this exchange, chrome plate it and frame it.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 10:22:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good post, Santiago. The consequences of the hesitancy of The WestTM or Egypt*  to engage sufficiently to stop the slaughter in Libya, which could be done mostly by air power and probably in one night strike, is a testament to the importance of being able to publicly frame such arguments with coherence. Other than the oil producers, who may get a windfall for a period, I do not see how this paralysis helps any of the significant actors. Yet I can see that a prolonged period of high oil prices will do great damage to almost everyone else. The only bright spot might be were it to lead to a greater effort and urgency in the push towards renewables and energy self-sufficiency.

* (I do not know if Tunisia could bring this off even with some guidance and assistance, but if they could that should generate serious consideration. They are right next to Gadaffi's stronghold in Tripoli and have serious reason to be concerned with the refugee exodus and the instability currently on offer and also there may be considerable support for such action amongst the Tunisians - ex post facto.)

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 04:35:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure it would do good things to Tunisian political culture if the first substantive foreign policy action of the liberation government were to be a foreign military deployment.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 05:58:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think military intervention would be a very bad idea, for all kinds of reasons.

Ironically, very careful and deniable covert aid and diplomatic pressure would likely be more successful.

Not through direct contact with Gaddafi - because he's a nutjob and his actions will always be reliably psychotic - but with tribal leaders (risky...) and the military brass.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 06:21:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Please don't compare that comment with what you've been saying about Gene Sharp's methods.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 06:44:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ironically, very careful and deniable covert aid and diplomatic pressure would likely be more successful.

I completely agree. Material and technical assistance could be provided to a group of individuals from an opposing tribe who have been trained for special operations. This could be a feasible means for destroying or disabling Libyan aircraft, for instance.

This is a delicate time in both Tunisia and Egypt, and the only reason to consider involving them is to minimize the slaughter in Libya and the resultant impact on them of masses of refugees. But, if such actions could be successfully accomplished it could lead to greater regional stability, with three adjacent reforming societies. The danger, of course, is that the militaries in Egypt and Tunisia would have their power consolidated as ruling institutions.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Feb 24th, 2011 at 09:58:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why does this diary not even attempt to address the points I made in mine?

I have no interest in Voltaire or in Stevesim's take on this. They're hardly relevant here.

But I don't need to reference them to find clear and unarguable evidence that Sharp is:

  1. Not a progressive, and not promoting progressive values. His links to the DOD and the content of his books make that clear. As far as he's concerned, tyranny is communism and socialism. It can't possibly come from the US.

  2. Pretending to be progressive to create a fake narrative that gives his work progressive support. We have Gandhi, we have Einstein, we have MLK, we have "democracy", and we have a dog-whistle title for a technique that hints at pacifism.

But where is Sharp's support for progressive causes in the West? What is he doing for the people of Wisconsin, or (potentially) Greece and Ireland who need democratic government that won't try to sell them like chattels to the IMF and ECB? Where is the persistent AEI support for the regimes taken over by the US and ruled by violent puppet dictators for decades?

Really, anyone who still thinks Sharp is any way a progressive needs to ask themselves why he and Helvey have done nothing for victims of US-sponsored torture gangs and death squads - and apparently have no interest in them, except on those rare occasions when the US decides that its old puppets are a liability and need to be replaced.

  1. Only promoting non-violence to the extent that his idea of violence is using civilians and PR methods for regime change rather than bullets and explosives. Which might seem appealing, if you like that kind of thing - except for point 4.

  2. Promoting methods that cannot work independently, and in fact only work at all with external-state support that is some mix of financial, strategic, and practical aid. (But which is also conveniently small-scale and deniable.)

  3. Lying about how his organisation is supported. E.g. he states regularly that he has never received government cash, when in fact AEI has been funded by the NED. (Which technically may not be a direct federal hand-out, but practically is as close as dammit when NED is funded directly by Congress.)

When I ask geezer for a factual rebuttal to some earlier comments, he ignored that request.

Now he's posted this diary which ignores further evidence and tries to imply that any factual criticism of Sharp is equivalent to a wacky conspiracy theory.

And this is "honest inquiry"?

Nice try, but no.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 01:42:52 PM EST
And what difference does this make? Let's say Sharp truly is a CIA toadie who has managed to abet U.S. sponsored regime change from Belgrade to (just maybe) Cairo, haven't the results been worth it? Or were these revolts more about moral superiority than power?
by Jace on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 01:53:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And what difference does this make? Let's say Sharp truly is a CIA toadie who has managed to abet U.S. sponsored regime change from Belgrade to (just maybe) Cairo, haven't the results been worth it?

Serbia, probably. Egypt? Hopefully, but we can't tell for sure until the dust has settled and we know what sort of government emerges. It's not hard to imagine American puppets that could be worse then Mubarak. Fortunately, it seems that the Americans have played only a minor role here, with the main show being the labour unions, with a helping of coup d'etat on the side.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 02:26:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree with Jace on this.  Who cares if Sharpe fits your particular definition of a progressive? The important thing is that he has provided progressives with an alternative to violence with which to fight for social justice. If non-progressives want use his methods too, better still.

Mikhail Kalashnikov is by most definitions of political ideology, a leftist and a "progressive." That hasn't stopped people from using his invention -- the AK-47 --  in clearly anti-progressive activities. And just the fact of violence taints any claim of Mikhail Kalashnikov to he progressive label in ways that simply aren't there for Sharpe and his promotion of non-violence as a political method.

Nothing in Sharpe's work has anything to do with state support. A fact that some states may have financially supported work using his strategies in no way implies that state support is necessary or even helpful for most ways they might be employed.

Finally, if the US or any other government is financially supporting educational projects to teach non-violent political organizing methods, that's a progressive thing that progressives should support in general, even if we don't support other things that our governments do or the policy objectives which non-violent methods might achieve.  For example, we can all support elections as a progressive way of changing governments even if we don't support the election of a certain party to office.

by santiago on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 02:25:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
he articulated a method, not a political philosophy, a how, not a why.

who uses the method determines the consequences, however if it is used unscrupulously, it has a way of tainting the author of the method.

the justice of this is debatable, but it is the big bug in being a methodologist.

the only clear way to ascertain the ethic of the author would be if he came out unequivocally for a political philosophy.

it is interesting how this guy's profile is raising simultaneously with the old partisan at the top of the best sellers book list in france...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 02:39:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes. Stephane Hessel speaks of moral indignation. Gene Sharp leans toward the technology, the methodology of social change at the top.
A synergy there, and one which recurrs in history.
Still, Sharp has clear principles, and it's easy to ascertain what they are. Just read him.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 10:29:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]

"When I ask geezer for a factual rebuttal to some earlier comments, he ignored that request."

That's pretty rich, coming from you; when I put up an extensive rebuttal of your stuff, you blithely ignore it. But then that's your style, why bother with rebuttal yourself when you know you're right - so you just repeat yourself.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 02:51:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There comes a time when rebuttal is pissing to windward.
Life's too short for that.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 10:31:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If Sharp is all you say, then events in Egypt and, possibly, Tunisia and Libya could be construed as blow-back, producing unwanted disruptions of regimes long loyal to the USA. But, still, the body of work he has produced remains a tool that may be more likely to benefit the average citizen in affected countries, with lower loss of life, than were the other tools on offer. I don't think you can try to have an effect without getting dirty. The basic rule seems to be: "Whatever you love will be used against you."

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 04:53:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Reading between the lines Egypt was being set-up for regime change - Mubarak was old and becoming a liability, and the usual cadres were being flown in for training before being sent back to organise local efforts - but Washington didn't expect regime change to happen just yet. So there's no blowback, so much as surprise at the strength of popular feeling which could be channeled into overthrow.

As for the usefulness of the methods - a key point in the argument against Sharp is that there's no evidence they actually work as advertised. All of the "success stories" were funded and pushed externally, not created spontaneously.

And you can't take Egypt as evidence if the key planners were personally US-trained, rather than independently Sharp-inspired.

If the narrative is that all you have to do is hand out copies of Sharp's books and wait for freedom after an inevitable low body count - which was the implication of the original NYT piece - clearly, that's nonsense. That has never happened anywhere, and never will.

You can of course take the point that formal study of methods of civil disobedience and resistance with active practice and organisation can be powerful things.

But I don't think Sharp's supporters are going to pretend that he invented an idea that has been around in one form or another for hundreds of years.

So what is actually new here? It seems to me the only formal innovation is a catalogue of methods - which except for the Internet and media elements, wouldn't surprise anyone from the 19th century - and the suggestion that nation states can use these methods to support regime change on their own terms.

As I said in my diary, I think that idea has obvious appeal in Washington, for obvious reasons. What I'm less convinced by is its usefulness for independent dissent.

In fact that the idea that you can use these methods successfully could actually be dangerous, because it's likely to instill false confidence and minimise the messy reality of regime change.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 06:13:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Given Mubarak's age I have little doubt that there has been ongoing discussions about the succession problem, or that the US Government has been involved. This might come out in Wikileaks. I personally doubt that this involved Gene Sharp or his work. Mubarak's military might discuss with the US contingency plans for dealing with the inevitable, but when the protests broke out I would expect that those plans involved the orderly transfer of power to Mubarak's son. I would think that no Egyptian officer would even discuss alternatives to the official plan except one on one with US officials, if then. Even to broach the subject of succession alternatives would likely have spooked them. Their first thought would likely have been: "Am I being set up?"

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 11:39:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That said, it is known that the US Government was reaching out to "other representatives" in Egypt. It is not inconceivable that some of these might have been introduced to some of Gene Sharp's works. Such contact would more likely have been conducted by spooks working through the Agency for International Development or the State Department. They would likely have been represented as business development consultants, etc. Whether this involved Sharp or the AEI I have no idea.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 11:46:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
TBG, in my case, the answer to your question is that, having read your point of view, I am not persuaded.
What to you is clear evidence of perfidy is to me unsupported but endlessly repeated assertion.
A cherry-picking job, from poor sources.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 10:25:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You think Helvey's own words are poor sources? As quoted in an interview to support a film put together by AEI's backers?

Or information about funding, and personal and corporate relationships collected from AEI's own documents?

You think these are poor sources?

Let us know when you find some better ones.

Actually having read a few more books, I'm tending more to the idea that Sharp's ideas are interesting, but naive, and easily co-opted.

To be fair to him he did suggest in 1975 that a civilan defence of Nicaragua against US military intervention would make an interesting case study - which answers one specific point, even though most of his early writing is still about possible anti-Soviet actions.

But otherwise he seems to trade in generalities and potentials. And since the only attempts at practical applications have been US-funded for expedient aims with the help of Col. Helvey - if you know better, point us to an example - more specific critiques of real-world effectiveness aren't difficult.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Feb 23rd, 2011 at 11:54:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gene Sharp being interviewed on Al Jazeera as of 16:20 GMT.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Thu Feb 24th, 2011 at 11:22:55 AM EST


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