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Nonviolence Just Works Better

Renowned Scholar Makes the Case

Speaking about research results, scholar David Cortright drew on his own experiences as an activist.

By Sandra Seitz

Maybe it started with the Vietnam War.

That’s when David Cortright, an active duty soldier, first spoke out against the use of violence as a means to achieve peace.

Now Cortright, director of Policy Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame, is an internationally renowned scholar and practitioner of nonviolent activism.

He spoke to a large gathering of students and faculty recently, to discuss the newest research findings on the practice of nonviolence. The Middle East Center for Peace, Development and Culture, directed by Sociology Prof. Paula Rayman, sponsored the event.

Research Proves the Point

“New research shows that nonviolence is twice as effective as force in achieving social or political goals,” said Cortright, referring to struggles in Serbia, Ukraine and Nepal, as well as his own experiences.

Nonviolence works by creating “loyalty shifts” ߝ changes in attitude within the majority population, both toward entrenched power and nonviolent activist groups.

“Governments can justify the use of force against groups that also use force,” said Cortright. “It is much more difficult to justify the use of violence against completely nonviolent protesters.”

Nonviolence vs. Terrorism

Reducing or ending terrorism also is more successful using nonviolent methods, such as a combination of policing and political processes. According to research analysis, military force has a poor record, less than 10 percent success, in eliminating terrorism.