Conflict early warning works. Indeed, current and historical cases of nonviolent action may be the closest systematic examples or tactical parallels we have to people-centered disaster early warning systems. Planning, preparedness and tactical evasion, in particular, are central components of strategic nonviolence: people must be capable of concealment and dispersion. Getting out of harm’s way and preparing people for the worst effects of violence requires sound intelligence and timely strategic estimates, or situation awareness.
The literature on nonviolent action and civil resistance is rich with case studies on successful instances of early warning tactics for community empowerment. What are the characteristics of successful early warning case studies in the field of nonviolent action? Nonviolent early response uses local social networks as the organizational template of choice, in a mode different from our conventional and institutional approach to early warning. Networks have demonstrated a better ability to innovate tactically and learn from past mistakes. The incentives for members of local networks to respond early and get out of harm’s way are also incalculably higher than those at the institutional or international level since failure to do so in the former instance often means death.
Nonviolent action is non-institutional and operates outside the bounds of bureaucratic and institutionalized political channels. Nonviolent movements are locally led and managed. They draw on local meaning, culture, symbolism and history. They integrate local knowledge and the intimate familiarity with the geography and surrounding environment. They are qualitative and tactical, not quantitative and policy-oriented. Not surprisingly, successful cases of nonviolent action clearly reveal the pivotal importance of contingency planning and preparedness, actions that are particularly successful when embedded in local circumstances and local experience.
The iRevolution question is how social resistance groups can most effectively use ICTs to gain an asymmetric advantage over repressive regimes.