Progress on every substantive issue I can think of is blocked, because every plausible countermeasure threatens someone with substantive control over the media. Net neutrality threatens the existing power structure by making it easier for consumers to get information that is not censored to minimize displeasing advertisers.

The early US was built on citizen-directed subsidies of the media provided by the US Postal Service Act of 1792. This encouraged literacy and reduced political corruption. It's effectiveness declined in the late 19th century with the growth of the advertising system for funding media.  

Media biases created by reliance on advertising have created obstacles to progress on virtually every front -- including creating virtually every major potential enemy the US might face today on the world stage.  For example, for 80 years the mainstream media in the US have largely suppressed discussions of questionable practices of the Saudi royal family -- including the fact that the George W. Bush administration insisted that 28 pages be redacted from the report of the December 2002 report of the joint Committee of the US House and Senate investigating 9-11. Recently declassified portions of those 28 pages showed that members of the Saudi royal family and employees of the Saudi embassy and consulates in the US helped some of the suicide mass murderers of September 11, 2001, prepare for that spectacular form of guerrilla theater. 

However, instead of invading Saudi Arabia, the US invaded Afghanistan. The US denied an Afghan request for evidence of Bin Laden's culpability, claiming it was just a delaying tactic. 

And after the invasion US international oil companies got a pipeline the previous government had not approved. 

We have enemies, because we have friends like the Saudis.  

Thanks, Spencer Graves

For more detail on "Effective Defense" (i.e., the long-term impact of alternative approaches to conflict), see "Winning the War on Terror" on Wikiversity and more generally "Category:Freedom and abundance".

Nonviolence builds democracy,

while violence perpetuates tyranny,

on average, in the long run.

This claim summarizes the key findings of Chenoweth and Stephan (2011) Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict (Columbia U. Pr.). This is discussed below along with other research on the effectiveness of alternative approaches to conflict.

Nonviolent resistance has been more successful than violence

Chenoweth and Stephan developed a database of all the major governmental change efforts1 of the twentieth century. Conflicts were selected for their database using a consensus process involving leading researchers studying conflicts. In this way they identified 217 movements that were predominantly violent and 107 that were primarily nonviolent. Outcomes were classified as either (1) failure, (2) partial success or (3) success. The basic results are summarized in Table 1: Nonviolence was twice as likely to achieve success as violence.

number of conflicts


Primary nature ->











partial success













(*) Percent within conflicts of the same primary nature. Thus, the "violent" column percents add to 100. The nonviolent total differs from 100 only because of round-off.

Table 1. Major governmental change efforts of the twentieth century by dominant nature of the struggle (violent or nonviolent) and by outcome (failure, partial success, success) in the NAVCO1.1 data set compiled by Chenoweth and Stephan.2

Nonviolence builds democracy; violence doesn't

However, the benefits of nonviolence over violence seem to extend beyond the end of a conflict. Chenoweth and Stephan merged their data with the Polity IV database, which includes ratings for governments of different countries from -10 for the worst tyranny to +10 for the best democracy.3 Table 2 shows the average increase in democratization from one year before the start of a conflict to one year after. The results show that win or lose, nonviolence tends on average to be followed by an increase in the Polity IV rating while violence has essentially no impact on democratization. Regression modeling (discussed in the book) reveals a more complicated picture, but the overall message is the same: As noted above, nonviolence builds democracy, while violence perpetuates tyranny, on average, in the long run.






partial success






Table 2. Average increase in Polity score from one year before to one year after a conflict. None of the changes following violent campaigns are statistically significant while all the changes following nonviolent campaigns are highly significant with significance probabilities less than 0.001.4

Effective use of air power

Robert Pape (1996) Bombing to Win: Air Power and Coercion in War (Cornell U. Pr.) compared air power used to support ground operations with strategic bombing of infrastructure and production facilities. He concluded that air support of ground operations could be effective in defeating an enemy, but strategic bombing was a waste.

Pape's best known example was the 1940-41 London Blitz by which Hitler attempted to bomb the English citizenry into submission. It backfired. Before Hitler started bombing London, he had destroyed most of the Royal Air Force on the ground. The British public didn't like having their air force destroyed. However, the pain of World War I was still vivid in the memories of anyone over 30, and few British citizens were eager to repeat that disaster. After Hitler started bombing London, the conflict became very personal. The vast majority of British citizens supported Churchill's commitment that, "We will never surrender."

Pape claims that the results of other strategic bombing campaigns have been similar though less obvious. He argued that even the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima (August 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (August 9, 1945) played a minor role in Emperor Hirohito's decision to surrender (August 14, 1945).5 More important was the speed of the collapse of the Japanese army in Manchuria after the Soviets entered on August 9, hours before the nuclear destruction of Nagasaki. Emperor Hirohito mentioned the atom bombs in his surrender message to the Japanese people on August 14. However, in his surrender message to the military 3 days later, he mentioned the Soviet invasion, not the atom bombs.6

Pape's argument against strategic bombing rests on two claims: First, strategic bombing often hardens the will to resist of civilians impacted. Second, infrastructure destroyed is usually replaced by resources harder to destroy.

Pape's analysis was questioned by a 1999 RAND Corporation study funded by the United States Air Force.7 A subsequent multivariate probit analysis of the RAND data supported Pape's assessment.8

More recently Jeremy Scahill claims that the US use of drones in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere manufactured enemies faster than they were neutralized.9 This seems consistent with Pape's claims in Bombing to Win. The discussion of the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant (ISIL) in late 2014 suggests that US military operations in Iraq and neighboring countries, especially since 2003, may have been counterproductive. This seems to support the claims of Scahill and Pape.

What motivates participants in conflict?

One simple principle seems to explain the results described above:

When people are killed and property destroyed,

the apparent perpetrators often make enemies.

This might seem obvious. However, when people feel threatened, they often respond with violence in ways that are ultimately counterproductive. Dunnigan and Martel noted that many wars start small and grow.10 More research is needed to understand the evolution of conflict: Why do people leave the sidelines to support one side or the other? Why do people already supporting one side increase or decrease their level of support? Why do some defect?

Cheneoweth, Stephan and others note that the risks and level of commitment required to support nonviolence tend to be less than for violence. People are also generally repulsed by violence perceived to be excessive, especially against apparently innocent civilians or nonviolent protesters. Authorities sometimes recognize this by using agents provocateur to create events that can then be used to justify repression. More research is needed for two purposes:  (1) To craft effective responses to specific challenges.  (2) To design military strategies that are more effective both in ending current hostilities and in reducing the risks of future violence.

There has been much discussion of the need to win hearts and minds in a conflict. However, there has been little discussion of how to do that. The results from Vietnam, Iraq, and elsewhere suggest that it's hard to win people's hearts and minds by killing them.

1violent and nonviolent resistance campaigns ending between 1900 and 2006.

2NAVCO Data Project at the University of Denver, http://www.du.edu/korbel/sie/research/chenow_navco_data.html

3Starting in 1800.

4Similar analyses of changes 5 and 10 years after a conflict produced similar results with the long term changes following violent campaigns actually being negative but not statistically significant.

5"Final stages" in the Wikipedia article on "End of World War II in Asia" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/End_of_World_War_II_in_Asia#Final_stages, accessed 2014-10-13).

6"Nagasaki" in the Wikipedia article on "Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_bombings_of_Hiroshima_and_Nagasaki#Nagasaki, accessed 2014-10-13).

7Byman, Daniel L.; Waxman, Matthew C.; Larson, Eric (1999), Air Power as a Coercive Instrument, Project AIR FORCE, RAND Corporation, http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monograph_reports/2007/MR1061.pdf, retrieved 2014-10-13.

8Horowitz, Michael; Reiter, Dan (2001), When does aerial bombing work? Quantitative empirical tests, 1917-1999, Journal of Conflict Resolution 45 (2): 147–173.

9Jeremy Scahill (2013) Dirty Wars (Nation Books).

10James F. Dunnigan and William Martel (1987) How to Stop a War (Doubleday)