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Force Without Firepower - War, Invasion

"If you meet a Spanish civilian or a soldier, greet him and share your food with him. If he fires on you, arm yourself with your faith and your conviction and continue your march. "

-King Hassan II of Morocco in a message to 350,000 civilians poised to invade Spanish Sahara: in New York Times, November 6, 1975; p. 1.

Definition: An unarmed military campaign across national boundaries, with a comparatively long-range objective or duration, in restraint of flagrant injustice, oppression, invasion, or genocide.

The rationale for nonviolent invasion is similar to that for expeditionary action. The distinction, if not precise, is the greater length and scope of an invasion, compared to the other's temporary or limited purpose. When I first wrote this section in 1971, "invasion" was the wildest of these wild ideas. But lo, four years later. King Hassan II of Morocco, in an international tour de force, staged a mass nonviolent invasion of Spanish Sahara by 350,000 Moroccan civilians under army leadership. Which is not to say I laud any of the particular circumstances; I was simply awed at another proof of Boulding's First Law; "Anything which exists is possible." Hassan proved that a nonviolent invasion is possible, and a useful tool in world politics.

Hassan's criteria were not mine, but what can you expect? Meanwhile, as I wrote earlier, a complete theory of unarmed forces must in principle allow for recourse to nonviolent mass attack outside their homeland(s) in extraordinary situations. Besides counterinvasion as a defense tactic, such cases would, in general, be those where proven genocide, slaughter, or oppression is being carried out in the face of all diplomatic efforts at remedy. The roll call of recent genocides is matched by the roll call of international permissiveness toward them: Armenians, Bengalis, Biafrans, Cambodians, Indonesians, Jews, Poles, Russians, Timorese, and Vietnamese are among the peoples "wasted" by the hundreds of thousands, even millions, just in this century — not to mention many other wars and slaughters.

Liberation of the death camps was only a fortuitous byproduct of the Allied victory in World War II, and by no means the purpose of the fight against Hitler. Besides, the Gulag body count may have been worse. However, in a polity with sizeable nonviolent military forces at the ready, genocide itself — not some infringement of the "national interest" — would be casus belli for an invasion by the unarmed forces. Thus, if India did in fact have a very large Gandhi-style nonviolent army, an invasion of Bangladesh to halt the slaughter there might have been a live option much earlier in 1971. (Indeed, nonviolent organizers in India were on the verge of launching large-scale incursions, but their plans were aborted by the outbreak of war in December.)

Obviously, as with war itself, nonviolent invasion does not occur in a vacuum but alongside other multiple pressures of diplomacy, politics, and publicity. Which was precisely the case in October 1975 when King Hassan was mobihzing his Green March invasion force.

Precedent: King Hassan's invasion was mostly a theatrical maneuver to fake out the Algerians. Ostensibly the Moroccans were facing off the soon-to-depart Spanish troops, which as of November 1975 were still dug in against any premature seizure of their colony by Morocco or Mauritania or Algeria. Phosphate riches were the prize. From November 6 to November 8, the Green March poured across the border for a few token miles, outflanking Spanish minefields. It was then withdrawn by King Hassan, having generated a media sensation and enough diplomatic turmoil to hasten a deal with Spain which excluded Algeria. Morocco subsequently annexed all of Spanish Sahara in two stages, and ever since has been at war against an Algerian-backed independence movement.

So, while the context was rather sordid, the Green March itself was phenomenal. There is nothing to prevent the misuse of unarmed forces, except better-motivated ones.

Ideas: Once again, Ralph Bell is one of the only voices with the temerity to advocate aggressive military nonviolent action. Prior to his Rhodesia plan, he had also targeted South Africa in more general terms as the theater for a campaign against apartheid, to be augmented by a British "active nonviolent resistance force." I classify that as an "invasion" on the assumption that South Africa would be a much more formidable effort than the Rhodesian campaign.

Until Hassan, this section had to be even more conjectural than the rest. But I had put invasion on the agenda because I agree with Waskow that in a disarming world there will be more struggle and conflict, not less. Given a substantial array of unarmed forces, a Just War need no longer be a moral Frankenstein but instead a legitimate, humane, and essential response by a larger community of nations when an entire people are in danger.

For decades the term peace army has bobbed along like a neglected cork in eddies of pacifist or ideahst thinking, and there were even a few efforts to stick that cork into a volcano. Often the term is loosely applied to such vest-pocket symbols as work camps, peace demonstrations, or the Peace Corps. But seldom has there been an attempt to suggest how the main forces of any given military could perform their essential missions in their own right, "armed with courage alone."

I am saying in effect, "These are some parameters and possibilities for unarmed services, and some of them might come in handy one day. It is not too early for any of us to speculate on an entire range of contingencies in which unarmed forces might be at least remotely conceivable. A lot more imagination and research would be helpful and is urgently needed." Pure research and impossible dreams have their own justification, often more visible in retrospect.