Over the past four weeks, hundreds of thousands of nonviolent protesters in Ukraine have succeeded in forcing a second -- and fair -- national election. The fraudulent returns of the November election have been thrown out; the new election is scheduled for Dec. 26, and there seems little doubt that Viktor Yushchenko, the candidate cheated of victory by the current regime, will win.
The United States helped achieve this happy result, with Secretary of State Colin Powell quickly declaring the November result fraudulent. All this has lessons for U.S. policy that go far beyond Ukraine.
Those lessons are set out in three books on nonviolent protest by authors who seem to come from different points on the American political spectrum. The first is "A Force More Powerful: A Century of Nonviolent Conflict" by Peter Ackerman and Jack Duvall, heads of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.
Ackerman and Duvall, who seem to come from the political left, describe how nonviolent protest produced peaceful change in the 20th century far more often than most of us probably realize. They include the demonstrations against Russia's tsarist autocracy in 1905, Gandhi's nonviolent protests against the British raj in India, to the American civil rights movement and the South African movement against apartheid, the removal of a military dictator in El Salvador in 1944, the Solidarity movement in Poland and the restoration of democracy in the Philippines in 1986.
Nonviolent protest, Ackerman and Duvall argue, means "separating governments from their means of control." They admit that nonviolent protest does not always work. Some dictators are too ruthless; some populations -- Germans in Nazi Germany -- are not willing to oppose their rulers. But nonviolent protest can be a force more powerful than busy policymakers, preoccupied with negotiating with governments, are inclined to think.
The lesson here is this: The United States brought down one member of George W. Bush's axis of evil, Saddam Hussein, by military force. That is not an attractive option for the other two, the mullahs of Iran and Kim Jong Il in North Korea. But those regimes are clearly unpopular and are vulnerable to nonviolent protest.