Today’s New York Times has an interesting article on Gene Sharp, an elderly scholar living in East Boston whose work
“most notably “From Dictatorship to Democracy,” a 93-page guide to toppling autocrats, available for download in 24 languages — have inspired dissidents around the world, including in Burma, Bosnia, Estonia and Zimbabwe, and now Tunisia and Egypt.”
His ideas are:
Based on studies of revolutionaries like Gandhi, nonviolent uprisings, civil rights struggles, economic boycotts and the like, he has concluded that advancing freedom takes careful strategy and meticulous planning, advice that Ms. Ziada said resonated among youth leaders in Egypt. Peaceful protest is best, he says — not for any moral reason, but because violence provokes autocrats to crack down. “If you fight with violence,” Mr. Sharp said, “you are fighting with your enemy’s best weapon, and you may be a brave but dead hero.”
This man’s work has gotten attention and apparently has helped produce results:
Autocrats abhor Mr. Sharp. In 2007, President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela denounced him, and officials in Myanmar, according to diplomatic cables obtained by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, accused him of being part of a conspiracy to set off demonstrations intended “to bring down the government.” (A year earlier, a cable from the United States Embassy in Damascus noted that Syrian dissidents had trained in nonviolence by reading Mr. Sharp’s writings.)
In 2008, Iran featured Mr. Sharp, along with Senator John McCain of Arizona and the Democratic financier George Soros, in an animated propaganda video that accused Mr. Sharp of being the C.I.A. agent “in charge of America’s infiltration into other countries,” an assertion his fellow scholars find ludicrous.
The entire article is a fascinating insight into the influence one dedicated (and insightful) person can wield.
My question: who is the Gene Sharp for the field of homeland security? Or has that person not yet appeared (or been noticed)?
I am not implying that homeland security officials nationwide should rise up in nonviolent protest of decreasing federal grants or conflicting guidance, but instead what scholar, author, practitioner/operator, etc. has exercised influence on the field well beyond their punching weight? Have we yet seen the exceptional in the field?
Some might suggest Stephen Flynn, in light of his role in introducing the idea of “resilience” into widespread usage within the homeland security field. I hesitate to raise him to such levels, however, due to the lack of a coherent expansion of that idea which has led to the term becoming almost a buzzword (for example, go back and read the various iterations on this very blog concerning the definition and application of the term–interesting ideas all, but a variety that exhibits a continuing lack of clarity on the issue).
It would be tempting to nominate someone “present at the creation,” but when do we mark that event? During the Bush Administration, shortly after 9/11? There were many dedicated individuals working within the White House and elsewhere who had enormous influence on what became the Department of Homeland Security, but considering the critiques of that effort and the numerous attempts at fixing the Frankenstein department, it might be too early to count a Tom Ridge, Bruce Lawlor, or Richard Falkenrath as such an influential figure.
Perhaps the Hart-Rudman Commission as a whole, as they identified much of the shape of what was to become homeland security? Though here again, their work was clouded by the early implementation of the idea.
At this point it should be obvious I personally do not have a candidate in mind. I am open to suggestions or defense of individuals already mentioned.