A REFUSAL BY SUBJECTS TO OBEY

GENE SHARP’S THEORY OF NONVIOLENCE

Can nonviolence be as strategic as war? Ask Gene Sharp, who has been repeatedly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Now in his 89th year, the theorist of nonviolent resistance has been called the “Machiavelli of nonviolence” and the “Clausewitz of nonviolent warfare.” His 1993 handbook From Dictatorship to Democracy, written for the Burmese, has been translated into 31 languages. People in places as disparate as Serbia, Ukraine, Burma, and Egypt have cited Sharp’s importance. Unsurprisingly, he also has enemies: Iran and Venezuela consider him an enemy of the state, and some Western conspiracy fans have called him a tool of the CIA.

In this interview, Sharp takes the Machiavelli and Clausewitz comparisons as compliments. “Clausewitz was not focusing on why war is noble, or even why it is supposedly necessary. Instead, his book, On War, is an exercise in the use of one’s mind in formulating strategies to oppose the enemy. That is a lesson people of all good causes need to ponder.”

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