Several times I have written about how non-violent action works. Today I am writing about the failure of violence. This is not a moral discussion, though my belief in non-violence is a moral decision. This is about the reality of violence.
I will not go into the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in detail. What is important is that many people believe that their protracted fight was one of the major causes of the collapse of the USSR. Most importantly, Osama bin Laden fought with the Mujahideen, and believed that they brought down the empire. Osama only believed in Sharia Law and violently opposed socialism, communism, democracy, and pan-Arabism. After the collapse of the Soviet Union he turned his attention to the other great power, the U.S., and apparently believed he could cause its collapse also.
Prior to 2001 he made several attacks on us with minor successes, enough to be on the CIA most wanted list. Then on 9/11/2001 he made had his only major success.
Our response was predictable and violent. We attacked. We overthrew the Afghan government, and sent Al Qaeda up into the mountains. Now we have killed Osama bin Laden. We won.
Since 9/11 we have had many of our rights taken away. All Osama bin Laden has had to do is occasionally have someone make an attempt at a violent act, and it didn't even need to be successful. Each time more of our rights were taken away. We now can be "legally" sexually assaulted if we choose to fly. We have spent trillions of dollars fighting while our infrastructure deteriorates, education falls behind, and we brought down the world economy. Osama bin Laden won.
So, both sides won violently.
I see something else. I see two playground bullies trying to be the playground boss, and so intent on hurting each other that they don't even see that the playground has moved. Both of us became irrelevant.
When Tunisia revolted against their government they did it on their own. The Western World and Al Qaeda were not invited. Egypt was one of our proxy torturers. When they revolted we didn't get the invite, and neither did Al Qaeda. When Pakistan and Afghanistan met to work out a reconciliation agreement the U.S. wasn't at the table. And the new Egyptian government just helped broker an agreement between Hamas and Fatah that would re-unite Gaza and the West Bank. The U.S. wasn't there. Al Qaeda wasn't there. We are irrelevant.
Note: Libya is not an example contrary to my point. In Tunisia and Egypt the peaceful demonstrations were met with violent repression including being shot. The reaction of the people was to join in mass and peacefully. They won and it appears they threw off the imperial influence of the U.S. The Libyan people chose to rebel violently, and became dependent upon the imperialist in their struggle. Every case is different, and we don't know if peaceful demonstrations would have worked. I do know that because of their dependence upon external military force, if the rebellion is successful the external governments will have influence over their government and natural resources.