Strategic Foresight Initiative Nonresident Senior Fellow Maria J. Stephan writes for Political Violence @ a Glance on how local populations can challenge corruption and institutionalized repression using nonviolent means:

Amidst bloody civil war, armed insurgency, and extremist violence – think Syria and Iraq, Nigeria, and southeastern Ukraine – what can unarmed civilians do to remain resilient and fight back? While much of my research with Erica Chenoweth has focused on the power and efficacy of civil resistance when confronting regimes and foreign occupiers willing and able to use violence, policymakers are increasingly faced with messy conflicts involving a whole host of unconventional armed actors. The “pillars of support” for these groups are not always evident, nor is it obvious how collective nonviolent action can exert leverage over these actors. Policymakers, repulsed by the extremist ideologies and brutal tactics used by groups like ISIS and Boko Haram, are inclined to seek to destroy them using military means.

While understandable, the reality is that you cannot bomb your way to victory, particularly against violent extremists that recruit, in part, based on their claim to be fighting tyranny and oppression. The drivers of conflict will persist after the last bomb has fallen. The link between protracted violent conflict and bad governance, particularly acute corruption, should be blatantly obvious by now. ISIS did not sweep through Mosul without the active help of tribes and ordinary Sunnis who wanted to stick it to Maliki. Afghans fed up with constantly paying bribes to corrupt warlords have been loath to take action against Taliban in their areas. Corruption is so rife in the Nigerian military that ordinary soldiers are often forced to fight without bullets.

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