Could Gandhi Have Halted Night Raids?

Afghanistan night raid victimU.S. Special Operations forces night raids may be scaring the wits out of Afghans, but they’re not the only ones freaked out. General David Petraeus professed to experience “astonishment and disappointment” when Afghan President Hamid Karzai recently called for an end to them because, aside from imperiling their lives, the raids drive Afghans into the arms of the Taliban.

In a Huffington Post article, Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy writes that the tactic of night raids “has been the subject of almost no public debate in the United States. Newspaper columnists aren’t inveighing against the night raids. Members of Congress aren’t demanding that the night raids stop.” What if, he asks, “Afghans adopted a strategy of nonviolent resistance against the night raids? Could they be stopped?” Naiman explains.

Let’s suppose . . . that there were a well-organized popular movement in Afghanistan against the night raids. Let’s suppose that this movement went around to respected Islamic scholars and got legal judgments that the night raids are an offense against Islam. Let’s suppose that this movement prepared to defend villages where U.S. night raids are being carried out, and organized committees of unarmed women to implement this defense. And let’s suppose that when a U.S. night raid began, a call would go out from the mosque, and a group of unarmed women would surround the house and say to the US soldiers: you’re not coming in, and if you try, we will not move. And let’s suppose that some Western NGO issued these women video cameras, as the Israeli human rights group B’tselem has issued Palestinians video cameras. And let’s suppose that a group of people in the United States and Western Europe agreed that they would try to support this movement, by vigorously raising their voices in protest whenever US special forces tried to break the line of protesters.

Nonviolent resistance is employed by thousands of Palestinians, along with sympathetic Israelis. Naiman cites the citizens of Budrus, who in 2004, used nonviolent resistance to force Israel to re-route the West Bank Barrier around its village. Do Focal Points readers think that this tactic has failed to achieve wide success in Palestine because it’s an impotent act — or because it hasn’t been fully implemented? Can Gandhi’s satyagraha work in Afghanistan as outlined by Naiman? Let us know in the comments section.