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Civilian-Based Defense

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Title: Civilian-Based Defense  
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Subject: Prague Spring, Alexander Dubček
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Civilian-Based Defense

Civilian-based defense, according to Professor Gene Sharp, a scholar of non-violent struggle, is a “policy [in which] the whole population and the society’s institutions become the fighting forces. Their weaponry consists of a vast variety of forms of psychological, economic, social, and political resistance and counter-attack. This policy aims to deter attacks and to defend against them by preparations to make to society unrulable by would-be-tyrants and aggressors. The trained population and the society’s institutions would be prepared to deny the attackers their objectives and to make consolidation of political control impossible. These aims would be achieved by applying massive and selective noncooperation and defiance. In addition, where possible, the defending country would aim to create maximum international problems for the attackers and to subvert the reliability of their troops and functionaries.”[1] Civilian-based defense and the complementary method of Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping (UCP; cf. Nonviolent Peaceforce) carried out by third parties in collaboration with civil-society groups in the affected country are the two institutions developed in the field of nonviolence since Gandhi and King that offer an alternative to military defense (and thus potentially to the war system as a whole).

In Europe the policy is usually called civilian defense or social defense.[2]

Sharp also wrote that the term civilian-based defense “indicates defense by civilians (as distinct from military personnel) using civilian means of struggle (as distinct from military and paramilitary means). This is a policy intended to deter and defeat foreign military invasions, occupations, and internal usurpations.”[3] This defense “is meant to be waged by the population and its institutions on the basis of advance preparation, planning, and training.”[4] However, the potential for civilian-based-defense as a complement to military defense has also been raised. [5]

The Civilian-based Defense Association and its magazine Civilian-based Defense promoted the policy. Concerning the potential for these tactics, Can Erimtan wrote, “Gene Sharp…has written… books on ‘Civilian-Based Defense’ and democracy that can serve as blueprints for popular uprisings against authoritarian regimes.”[6]


  1. ^ Gene Sharp, Making Europe Unconquerable: the Potential of Civilian-based Deterrence and Defense, Ballinger Publishing Co. 1985, pp. 2-3. See also Civilian-based Defense, Spring/Summer 1994, p. 1, at https:/
  2. ^   See, e.g., Adam Roberts, "Civilian Defence Strategy," in Civilian Resistance as a National Defence: Non-violent Action against Aggression, Penguin Books, 1969; and Serge Mongeau, “La defense civile non-violente,” in Serge Mongeau (editor), Pour un pays sans armée. Les Éditions Écosociété, 1993, pp. 47-57.
  3. ^ Sharp, 1990, p. 6
  4. ^ Sharp, 1990, p. 7
  5. ^ See Johan Jørgen Holst, (former defense minister of Norway), Civilian-Based Defense in a New Era, Albert Einstein Institution, (Monograph Series, number 2), p. 14.
  6. ^ Hurriyet Daily News, February 27, 2011

External links

  • Albert Einstein Institution (Gene Sharp, Senior Scholar)
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