Skip to content

“Gene Sharp Peace Theorizing and the Arab Spring: Tool for Societal Transformation…or the Road to Nowhere?” Part Two

January 2, 2020

In the aftermath of a series of U.S. attacks on Iraqi positions Ka’ataib Hezbollah (no relationship to the Lebanese “Hezbollah) positions, that killed scores and wounded more, Iraqis storm the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

Transcript – KGNU – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogue – December 31, 2019 – Continued – Part One.

“Gene Sharp Peace Theorizing and the Arab Spring: Tool for Societal Transformation…or the Road to Nowhere?” – Continued. with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. KGNU 1390 AM, 88.5 FM – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues. Tuesday, December 31, 2019. 6 pm Mountain Time.

______________________________

Note: The first part of this two hour probe of the work of Gene Sharp aired on Christmas Eve, December 24. A second segment, pre-recorded a few days prior to New Years’ Eve, aired on December 31. In it Ibrahim Kazerooni and I continue to analyze the work of Gene Sharp. In this segment of the interview, Kazerooni goes into depth concerning Gene Sharp’s role in shaping U.S. Cold War policy. In a further segment that will appear in the next few days, I look at how Sharp’s work was somewhat reshaped to address Pentagon-C.I.A. thinking in the post-Cold War era, most especially in the Middle East. 

______________________________

We would like to focus on the role of Gene Sharp himself and how he developed his ideas, and the context in which these ideas were developed. Thirty five years of working in an institution that is considered to be the bastion of the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) as well as the defense industry created its own unique ontology or world view

People who interpret Gene Sharp coming from the Left, activists and people involved in social movements – they really don’t address and interrogate this unique ontological or worldview. So this remains hidden. Nobody talks about it.

  • Ibrahim Kazerooni

So the C.I.A. tries to re-invent itself. This comes after Philip Agee’s exposes (and that of others) of C.I.A. crimes in Latin America and elsewhere. The C.I.A. is already associated with assassination, torture, the overthrow of governments. The C.I.A. is now trying to clean up its image and trying to recreate the illusion that it’s just an intelligence gathering agency that does “good deeds.”

  • Rob Prince

We continue with our analysis of Gene Sharp’s connections to the U.S. defense and intelligence establishments.

Rob Prince: I was thinking of a title for this discussion. I’d call it “the United States use of plausible deniability in its Middle East policies and actions”, ie – that given the complexity of the goings on in the region, that Washington tries to deny its ultimate responsibility for its policies and their consequences.

During the war in Vietnam there was no question that the United States had invaded Vietnam militarily and on a massive level. No question about it. Half a million U.S. troops were there. Today there are more and more situations where the role of the United States is less obvious, more difficult to tease out.

For example, one could ask, what is the role of the United States is playing in Syria, Lebanon and the rest of the (Middle East) region? It’s more difficult to see the connections between U.S. policy and what is happening on the ground. It gives the United States a pretext to argue that it is not spearheading the efforts to overthrow governments referred to as regime change. This permits Washington to hide behind what is referred to as “plausible deniability” – its the approach that the United States has used in recent decades.

With that, we wanted to start off with Ibrahim briefly reviewing some of the main points that we developed in the last program. And then I’ll pick it up from there.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: I would like to start by reminding listeners of the same statement made in the last program – that we both agreed on – that our assessment and analysis of Gene Sharp, and particularly his work at the Albert Einstein Institute, is not, at this stage, a critique of non-violent civil disobedience per se. As a strategy non-violent civil disobedience has its own unique political benefit if applied correctly.

But that’s not something that we really need to focus upon.

Instead, we would like to focus on the role of Gene Sharp himself and how he developed his ideas, and the context in which these ideas were developed. Thirty five years of working in an institution that is considered to be the bastion of the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) as well as the defense industry created its own unique ontology or world view

People who interpret Gene Sharp coming from the Left, activists and people involved in social movements – they really don’t address and interrogate this unique ontological or worldview. So this remains hidden. Nobody talks about it.

Gene Sharp is better understood as one of the most important defense intellectuals of the Cold War. An early neo-liberal theorist concerned with the supposedly inherent violence of the state and vital counselor to anti-communist forces in the Socialist world from 1980 until the collapse of that world at decade later.

Around the mid-1960s he was recruited to join the Center for International Affairs at Harvard University which is considered the bastion of high Cold War defense intelligence and the security establishment. Leading figures during his time at Harvard included the later National Security Adviser, Henry Kissinger and a number of others (McGeorge Bundy).

Sharps thirty year relationship with this institutions is unfortunately a fact that nobody paid attention to. At C.I.A., Harvard, the founders, directors and staff included a list of first rank Cold War intellectuals that he was a part of.

So what we really need to establish are the ideas he developed, the finance he received from various institutions, whether it’s the C.I.A., the Defense Establishment or other institutions that worked and supported him financially, creating an intimate relationship between Sharp and the Defense Industry to the point that if there was ever some question mark concerning his character, people who later on became some of the key neo-conservative thinkers – these people would come to his rescue and supported his tenure so that there, at Harvard, he remained.

Mainstream accounts of Sharp don’t mention anything about these connections.

As I said last week, the scholars of the Left understand that the military-industrial complex is a highly visible barrier to progressive social change but they are not prepared to investigate the linkage between Gene Sharp and the development of his ideas and how these ideas were taken up by the Defense Establishment and the C.I.A. and incorporated by the political establishment where they were implemented.

In this earlier part of the program I am going to focus on the Cold War period. After that, hopefully, Rob will analyze Sharp’s work in the post-Cold War era. In the former we will see how these ideas were primarily utilized to destabilize the Soviet Union and the other Socialist republics in existence at the time in the U.S.S.R’s periphery and were later on co opted. Sharp’s ideas were brought into the mainstream of political policy and used to destabilize various countries that the United States considered unfriendly or to be rogue states.

It’s strange that when we look at the literature coming out of the Albert Einstein’s Institute, they list that they have been active in over twenty countries. But when you look at these countries none of them are friendly politically to the United States or those puppet regimes that Washington has used to topple. They are all part what now is called “the Axis of Resistance” or somehow countries that opposed American dominance and imperialism in the region.

The need for co-option of the ideas of Gene Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institute comes after the global protest movement of 1968. There were protests and revolution the world over, the intensity and pervasiveness of which were widespread. The C.I.A. and like institutions were beginning to think about some kind of alternative strategy to reshape their image from being warmongers and assassins to one in which they are transformed into “peace researchers.” This was particularly true of the C.I.A. at Harvard. The proof of their newly found virtue is none other than Gene Sharp and his ideas.

But primarily moving in this direction was in order to cover its (already) violent history.

There was a meeting in 1967 to discuss all the crises taking place in the United States. Richard Bissell, who was the Deputy Direction of Plans at the C.I.A., commented:

“In order for the C.I.A. to recover (its reputation) we will have to make use of private institutions
on an expanding scale though those relations that have been blown cannot be resurrected. We need to operate under deeper cover with increased attention to the use of cut-outs (intermediaries). The C.I.A.’s interface with the rest of the world needs to be better protected.”

This becomes their policy since that time.

Rob Prince: So the C.I.A. tries to re-invent itself. This comes after Philip Agee’s exposes (and that of others) of C.I.A. crimes in Latin America and elsewhere. The C.I.A. is already associated with assassination, torture, the overthrow of governments. The C.I.A. is now trying to clean up its image and trying to recreate the illusion that it’s just an intelligence gathering agency that does “good deeds.”

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Once the C.I.A center (at Harvard) was attacked by the students and documents were taken and the whole relationship between the agency and the peripheral institutions that are working to develop ideas and strategies for the defense industry was exposed, at that point we move into a period where both the agency and the defense industry make an effort to be “less exposed” to the public but yet their policy should be implemented more publicly by these other institutions giving the C.I.A. its deeper cover – its plausible deniability at the end of the day that Rob started the program referring to.

Rob Prince: Ibrahim, I just want to add one point.

We use the term “the Central Intelligence Agency – C.I.A” but what we are referring to is a whole slew of intelligence organizations. Every branch of the military, frankly almost every department of the government does its own intelligence gathering. They all tend to coordinate. We’re using the generic term “C.I.A.” but in a way it’s a misnomer to a certain extent and we should keep that in mind.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: It’s not just the defense industry or the C.I.A. per se. There are a Huge number of others. The National Defense Intelligence College, even the U.S. Institute for Peace, International Republican Institute, National Endowment for Democracy and a number of others. These are all a part of the establishment that ultimately link to the upper echelon of the Administration (or the system – however it is labeled). They all work together to implement a single policy.

Rob Prince: We need to add to that intelligence outlets for both the energy industries and the military complex. When you examine this in its broader picture, it’s incredible. Most of what the United States is doing on some level, be it in the public or private sector has been intelligence for half a century.

We just want to listeners to keep in mind that while the C.I.A. is significant, it’s actually only a small component of the overall intelligence work that is done in this country.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: The whole shenanigans of these various institutions and funding mechanisms that were used by the Center for Strategic Studies (at Harvard) during the Cold War and afterwards.

The first thematic change that we see …

People talk about Gene Sharp’s policy or ideas or books, but what is absent in this kind of discourse is that they do not mention anything from 1980 until the latter part of his life when just prior to his death he became too old to travel that he was traveling from one country to another, conducting workshops, presenting power points, communicating with various underground institutions in these countries to destabilize their governments and ultimately lead to regime change.

During the 1980s Gene Sharp and one of his assistants decided to concentrate on helping the nationalist separatist movement in the former Soviet Union, namely in the Baltic countries – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

We see that Gene Sharp and his assistants constantly going around from country to country conducting these workshops and interviews with the financial help for these activities coming from the United States led by ngo’s (non-governmental organizations) – and even church institutions and others. They become the middlemen for providing this sizable amount of money that was needed for Sharp to conduct his activities.

After a long period of time, we see that this kind of work leads to the Baltic states gaining their independence, moving away from the Soviet Union and ultimately leading to the disintegration of the central power, the Soviet Union itself.

To be continued.

_________

Once again we acknowledge our reliance on the work of Marcie Smith in her fine research on Gene Sharp and his work.

 

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: