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Two Who Have Inspired More Revolutions than Mao or Lenin

A week ago, I noted that events in Egypt had once again shown the power of peaceful protest as opposed to guerrilla or terrorist attacks. Today the New York Times runs the umpteenth profile of Gene Sharp, the former academic who is the apostle of nonviolent resistance.

Operating from a nondescript house in Boston, Sharp has published numerous how-to guides over the years for overturning a regime without violence; his most notable effort is a pamphlet, “From Dictatorship to Democracy.” His work has been picked up by his former pupil Peter Ackerman, a former investment banker who has founded the Institute for Nonviolent Conflict (and is a board member of the Council on Foreign Relations, where I work). The methods they advocate have spread across the world, inspiring protesters from Siberia to Egypt. Indeed, every successful revolution using “Sharp” methods inspires imitators — the Times notes that Egyptian protesters stumbled onto his work after studying what happened in Serbia.

It is fair to say that Sharp and Ackerman have been indirectly responsible for more revolutions than anyone since Lenin or Mao — and, unlike the avatars of “socialist” upheavals, their work made the world a better place, helping to create numerous liberal democracies. It is hard to think of worthier recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel committee should act soon — Sharp is no longer a young man and his work deserves recognition while he is still around to enjoy it.

Of course, he no doubt thinks that the greatest recognition he can receive is from the expansion of liberty. And he is right.



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