When Peace is Met with Violence: How the Breakout of Civil War in Syria Shows the Shortcomings of Peaceful Resistance


Peaceful resistance to empire has become a very complicated and seemingly unrealistic idea in the 21st century with various protest movements for equality, reform, or awareness devolving into violent riots, civil discord, and in some cases bloody civil war.  The ultimate question however, is why has this turn towards violent protesting become such a common trend in the modern world and have past successful attempts of peaceful resistance become obsolete?

The civil war in Syria is a worst case scenario that shows how an initially peaceful protest against the ruling government can devolve into a bloody civil conflict that has utterly shredded the country apart. Unlike the stereotypical notion that the people who started the protest also started the violent movement, the party to initiate the violent shift was in fact the government in power as dictator Bashar al-Assad ordered the firing upon peaceful protesters in the Arab Springs protest. This presents a rather difficult situation for those that protested the government as their attempt to peacefully express their desire for reform was met with ruthless violence. How can people be expected to uphold a peaceful and passive form of resistance when then are immediately met with deadly repression? While iconic figures like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi promoted the idea that non-violence was the only absolute method to achieve change (which worked well in their own contemporary reform movements) to what extent are people supposed to uphold that noble notion? 

The attempt of the Arab Springs movement illustrated the common people’s desire to achieve change without resorting to violent measures. The willingness to refrain from violence represents how past peaceful protest movements like the movement for women’s suffrage, civil rights, and the independence of India influenced the manner in which the people of Syria and most of the Middle carried out their actions. This is why Assad’s quick, almost instinctual violent response to the protests is such an alarming but also grim reminder of the dangers behind empire. When those that lead empire are placed upon such a high pedestal above those that make up the empire, then the ruler will believe that their will is greater than that of their people and will act accordingly.While peaceful resistance has been proven to work and various historical events clearly document its ability to cause change there is an apparent threshold were those who wish for change will not be able to achieve their aspirations wholly using nonviolent methods.