Effective Defense References

    A leading summary of research available today is Chenoweth and Stephan (2011) Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict (Columbia U. Pr.).  In brief, they find that (1) successful violent and nonviolent change efforts have succeeded primarily by encouraging defections among the regime's supporters, and (2) defections are more common in response to nonviolent protests than violent attacks.  Moreover, changes achieved nonviolently generally lead to greater improvements for freedom and democracy than changes obtained through violence.  

    Chenoweth and Stephan led a collaborative effort that created a database representing a consensus among leading experts on violent and nonviolent change efforts in the twentieth century focusing on campaigns that ended between 1902 and 2006.  Their experts identified 105 nonviolent change efforts and 218 violent movements.  Full or partial success was achieved by 53% of the nonviolent campaigns but only 26% of the violent efforts.  Success in virtually all cases was achieved in large part through defections from the established authorities, and the leaders key supporters were more likely to defect when confronted with nonviolent resistance than violence.

    Moreover, the nonviolent successes were followed years later by an improvement in Freedom Scores from Freedom House of 2.68 vs. only 1.52 for violent change efforts.1

    In sum, the ends are are largely determined by the means with nonviolent means being more likely to increase freedom.  


1 Karatnycky, Adrian and Ackerman, Peter (2005) How Freedom Is Won: From Civil Resistance to Durable Democracy (Freedom House; “http://www.freedomhouse.org/uploads/special_report/29.pdf”, accessed 2011.07.02).