GEW Assessment Report
The idea that armed resistance has been a crucial factor in the struggle for freedom and independence in many countries is supported by several historical examples.
For instance, in the Mississippi Freedom Movement, armed resistance was a significant factor in challenging the descendants of enslaved Africans to overturn fear and fight for their rights. Akinyele Omowale Umoja, in his book “We Will Shoot Back: Armed Resistance in the Mississippi Freedom Movement”, argues that armed resistance was critical to the efficacy of the movement, particularly in communities where federal government officials failed and were often supported by local law enforcement.
Another example can be found in the United States Civil Rights Movement. In his book “The Spirit and the Shotgun, “ Simon Wendt discusses how armed resistance became symbolic and provoked vigorous debate within traditionally nonviolent civil rights organisations. Wendt reevaluates black militants such as Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party, arguing that African Americans protected themselves, their families, and their communities through armed defence, even if it might have been ineffectual at times.
Algeria, Tunisia, Sudan, Egypt, Vietnam, China, France, and other invaded countries appear to have won their freedom and independence struggles through armed resistance. Political negotiations will be fruitful only if they are accompanied by armed struggle. An imperialist enemy would not give up its hold on the conquered country without experiencing the heat of military struggle.
These examples illustrate that armed resistance has often been a key component in struggles for freedom and independence. However, it’s important to note that the effectiveness and necessity of armed resistance can vary greatly depending on the specific historical and sociopolitical context.
A Condition For Success in Political Negotiations
Political negotiations have been instrumental in achieving independence in conjunction with armed resistance in various historical contexts. The process often involves a complex interplay between military pressure and diplomatic engagement, where the threat or use of force can create the conditions necessary for successful negotiations. Armed resistance movements have influenced political negotiations in achieving independence in several ways. They can create negotiation leverage by increasing a movement’s social, economic, and political power, encouraging defections within the power structure, and creating sustained positive transformations of a regime’s institutions, policies, or political culture.
Cambodia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Mozambique, and South Africa
Negotiated settlements in civil wars, such as those in Cambodia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Mozambique, and South Africa, demonstrate how barriers to peace can be overcome through a combination of armed struggle and political negotiation. These cases often involved manipulating the sequencing, timing, and negotiation strategy, sometimes supported by coercive diplomacy to bring reluctant parties to the table.
In South Africa, the intensification of the freedom struggle in the 1980s saw an increase in armed struggle combined with mass politicisation of the populace. This combination of armed resistance and political mobilisation represented a serious challenge to the apartheid regime.
Civil Society Influence
Civil society movements can push governments and armed groups towards recognising that negotiations and dialogue are viable paths to peace. Clem McCartney suggests that armed groups might adopt a dual strategy where force is the primary option. Still, talks and ceasefires are utilised, eventually transitioning to a conflict transformation strategy.
In humanitarian contexts, negotiations with non-state armed groups can save lives and build trust, which may lead to broader benefits beyond the immediate humanitarian outcomes. These negotiations do not confer legitimacy but can demonstrate commitment from armed groups and foster a coordinated approach among humanitarian actors.
Uganda/Lord’s Resistance Army
The peace negotiations between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan government illustrate how dialogue can progress even after a ferocious conflict. The talks led to a cessation of hostilities and demonstrated the potential for peace talks to dissolve armed groups.
Decolonisation of Asia and Africa
Between 1945 and 1960, the decolonisation of Asia and Africa saw many states achieve independence through a mix of armed resistance and political negotiation. The United Nations advocated for independence, and the United States and other powers sometimes used aid and technical assistance to encourage European imperial powers to negotiate an early withdrawal from their colonies.
In summary, political negotiations have often been used alongside armed resistance to achieve independence. The threat of armed resistance can compel occupying powers to negotiate, while diplomatic efforts can solidify gains made on the battlefield and lead to a more stable and lasting peace.
Should we deduce from the previous analyses that armed struggle is necessary when a country faces a powerful invader, even if we should not exclude a political solution? The answer to this question depends on various factors.
Research indicates that nonviolent resistance has been empirically shown to be twice as effective as armed struggle in achieving major political goals. This is supported by the ‘3.5% rule’, which suggests that nonviolent protests engaging a threshold of 3.5% of the population have never failed to bring about change.
However, it’s important to note that the success of nonviolent resistance often depends on the nature of the regime or invader. In some cases, a powerful occupying force may create a disadvantage, and groups engaged in covert, asymmetric warfare can continue indefinitely.
On the other hand, armed struggle can be a tool used by nations inferior in arms and military equipment against a more powerful aggressor nation. This is particularly the case when the invader occupies the territory cruelly and oppressively, and the terrain, climate, and society hinder the invader’s progress.
Political solutions to conflict are also crucial. Peacekeeping operations can mediate and facilitate peace agreements, maintain stability, and build trust between conflict parties. The United Nations, for instance, has played a prominent role in advancing political solutions in various conflict zones.
In conclusion, engaging in armed struggle or pursuing a political solution is highly context-dependent. It’s influenced by factors such as the nature of the invader, the resources and capabilities of the invaded country, and the potential for international intervention or support. It’s also important to consider the potential long-term consequences of armed conflict, including the risk of escalating violence, humanitarian crises, and the potential for protracted instability. Therefore, while armed struggle may often be seen as necessary, it should not be the only or primary strategy considered when faced with a powerful invader.
Most of all, could it be different for the Palestinians still blamed for violence while they are victims of one of the most abject colonisation projects in contemporary history? How can we forget that Israel could never have come to being without occupying Palestine?