As we approach the twentieth anniversary of Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution, closed regimes like Iran are trying to learn how to prevent similar “velvet revolutions” in their own countries. Whether in Russia, China or Cuba, rulers are intensifying their response to nonviolent change, attacking civil resistance as a new form of–and specifically American–subversion. What should the United States and its democratic allies do about it? Is any kind of Western support the kiss of death for such movements? Or does the history of the relationship between civil resistance and power politics suggest more promising lines of action?
On October 6, the Brookings Institution hosted a discussion on the challenges and opportunities posed by nonviolent civic movements for political change around the world. Timothy Garton Ash, professor of European Studies at Oxford University and an eyewitness to the Central European revolutions that put an end to communism in Europe, discussed how such movements established a new model of nonviolent change. He has just edited, with Professor Sir Adam Roberts of Oxford University, a path-breaking study of Civil Resistance and Power Politics: The Experience of Non-violent Action from Gandhi to the Present (Oxford University Press, 2009), which examines most of the major cases of the use of civil resistance over the last 50 years. A panel discussion followed featuring Vice President for Studies Thomas Carothers of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Brookings Senior Fellow Suzanne Maloney.
Senior Fellow Ted Piccone, deputy director of Foreign Policy at Brookings, provided introductory remarks and moderated the discussion. After the program, panelists took audience questions.