Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

February 17, 2011

Who is Homeland Security’s Gene Sharp?

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Strategy — by Arnold Bogis on February 17, 2011

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?

If Mr. Sharp is a little too radical for comfort, how about thinking of a Bernard Brodie or Thomas Schelling?

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.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

February 17, 2011 @ 2:59 am

Intereesting post ARNOLD!
Gene Sharp truly an interesting person and good one to point out on any blog given current events.
And given the mists of time that form good idea to search now. I argue for none of the above. But I do have a great candidate and always thought he might become a President and was hoping he would and actually mentioned that to him once in a brief meeting. Unfortunately, he opposed going to war in 1990 and as Abraham Lincoln learned in losing to his opponent for a Congressional race and opposing the Mexican War, you don’t throw you career away opposing the willingness of the American people to go to war over various things. Like that “nation of shopkeepers” disdained by Hitler, specifically Great Britain, the warring potential of the American people is just now being documented in books like “Dangerous Nation” and others. That book concludes that even the westward expansion was largely foreign policy and foreign relations (obviously the Louisiana Purchanse was peaceful but its preconditions not necessarily)and not internal development policy.

Well he was a Senator who never served in the military? Also the Senator from a southern STATE!

Can you guess?

Comment by Claire B. Rubin

February 17, 2011 @ 6:13 am

I would make the case that the field of emergency management also does not have a dominant figure.

Comment by James

February 17, 2011 @ 8:24 am

I believe E. L. Quarantelli could be, but perhaps more on the disaster research/social impact/emergency management arena.

In my opinion, the reason we in the HS/EM community don’t have a Gene Sharp is because the profession is in its infancy, generally speaking. The field of Homeland Security and Emergency Management is flooded with ex-police, fire, EMS, and military; many, if not most, do not have the academic perspective, theories, or research to coincide with their practical knowledge and experience. As this business of homeland security and emergency management slowly turns the corner and becomes a profession, I believe, we’ll start to see more individuals such as Mr. Sharp surface; and realize that there have been advocates hidden in the halls of libraries and research papers for decades.

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 17, 2011 @ 8:57 am

Well I have a few candidates for EM but hey this is a HS blog.

Comment by Mark Andrews

February 17, 2011 @ 11:45 am

I bet there are HS Gene Sharps. These are men and women with acute insight who are having an unnoticed butterfly effect. They are not yet recognized, but their influence is growing in sub rosa potential. To name and notice at this point might be to jinx their potential, but what about Claire Rubin, Chris Bellavita, and Lee Clarke as an unlikely trinity?

Comment by Claire B. Rubin

February 17, 2011 @ 1:28 pm

To: Mark Andrews:

Thanks for the compliment.
And the triad gave me a chuckle.

Comment by William R. Cumming

February 17, 2011 @ 2:00 pm

No Claire is a good candidate for EM however.

Comment by Dan O'Connor

February 17, 2011 @ 7:14 pm

There are many “musicians” singing the virtue and necessity for comprehensive homeland security. As of yet however, the resonance, pitch, and timbre necessary for true listening have yet to be achieved.
Eventually, one individual or a group will hit the right set of chords and voila; audience and musician link!
Perhaps a little too metaphorical, but everyone simply needs to keep learning, reading, and creating… eventually it’ll happen.

Comment by Comprehensive Homeland Security Now!

February 18, 2011 @ 7:52 am

There are no excuses, none whatsoever from my perspective as to lack of appropriate emergency management, its federal funding and that of a competent and fully functioning DHS – homeland security – we’ve had plenty of dollars and plenty of time – just like in local, state and federal management, few dedicated professionals and others to assure themselves pensions and healthcare!

We have many knowledgeable people and thse in academics, however unfortunately we are out of time – far too bureaucratic and far too many egos and hey, after spending three years and 1,491 hours standing in front of a closed fire station often in the midst of wind whipped nor’easters when such politicizing was certain to jeopardize, to place in peril not only 911 frantic caller with Life hanging on the phone and response, but the distinguished and respected “first responders” whose diminished staff even below what one would consider minimum personnel staffing, hey, the politicians didn’t give a damn really as the statin and pumper 4 long established and tday, the community’s busiest fire station, would not have been closed…If I was not willing to stand in the cold and hot blazing sun with 30 pd sign in hand, now arthritic one hand as cld rains fell on it the first year and the elements took their toll, if as merely a resident I was not willing to place a stretcher at the front stairs at the door of town hall on top of snow, a stretcher with two pillows and a sheet over them and sign in hand, “This is a Milton resident who has been pliticized rather trhan defibed” politicians woyuld not have even bothered to care that life saving equipment was nlot readily available – politics, pension and bigger and bigger government and bankers getting every break spells doom and third world destine for our beloved Republic and most charitable people…

Sure the station was repened..sure the fellow residents are getting defibed, however it shlould not have taken one resident with no skeletons in the closet to stand amidst the wolves and their every attempt to be demeaning to me as a person, a fellow “concerned” resident that dedicated emergency management personnel would not show up at the next child maybe choking after putting a coin or small toy in their mouth r an elder….

Folks, we’re broke – Imagine this talk of “shutting the government down” – what hogwash – what a disgrace – what abuse of citizen – barry et al and yur Goldman Sachs executive administration in yur every attempt to hoodwink America as yur budget spirals out of contril every minutes of every day…God is witness and from the pain I see n the faces of consumers even at the local Walmart where prices there will be steadily increasing, how dare you – what a shame – the selling ff of America! Do not be surpised to look up at the moon and see a Red Chinese flag as the face of the moon as their scientific and engineering leaders versus the litigators here overtake America in every way – we are dead and simply living n the past whose work ethics and character molded this nation simply to be stolen, no raped if its resources, the American people!

Christopher Tingus
PO Box 1612
Harwich, MA 02645 USA

Comment by Arthur Edelstein

February 19, 2011 @ 3:40 am

You might find Gene Sharp’s writings on civilian-based defense relevant. See:

Civilian-Based Defense: A Post Military Weapons System


National Security Through Civilian-Based Defense

Pingback by Weg mit der Khasaren-Judenrepublik Deutschland – Schluß mit den Juden und ihren Lügen – FREE DOWNLOAD of FDTD von Gene Sharp « Vivelaprusse's Blog

February 21, 2011 @ 10:27 am

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