What does it take to change a regime? The events of recent years have demonstrated that when there is a will, there is a way. As long as people come out and demonstrate peacefully the harsh, dictatorial regimes can be overthrown and democracies installed. Or was that the actual outcome?
What have the peaceful revolutions of the middle east accomplished in the end? Egypt's military rule has continued unchallenged after the popular uprising that saw Mubarak removed, pseudo democracy installed and promptly abandoned when the people's choices did not align with those in actual control of the country.
The use of peaceful resistance has long been debated among university and local pub scholars alike. In our part of the world, where abundance of resources is still the name of the game, peaceful resistance is the preferred method of trying to change the status quo. Over the years, with multiple successful resistance movements, we have learned that it could work after all. From the civil rights movements, to the collapse of the Soviet regime, there was proof that peaceful demonstrations could change the course of history. Yet, while the people were continuing on this path, two things were occurring that invalidated this theory.
First, only those who have nothing to lose post any real danger to incumbent regimes. But, in a world of abundance no one wants to lose their life in order overthrow the government or fight injustice. You just have too much too lose. Losing your house, your car, your job are all traumatic experiences so dying for it is just not going to work for us in the world of abundance. People who have much lose usually do not demonstrate for too long or too ardently. Usually dispersing at the first sign of cold weather or once their vacation days are used up.
Second, the dictatorial regimes have learned how to survive such non-violent unrests. As long as the regimes in power still retain control of the economic and monetary interests of the country, the figurehead in charge of the government is irrelevant. That person is just for show, someone to be paraded in from to of the people as their democratically elected choice. The real power behind the system would still be in place and continuing to govern in shadows, albeit with less corruption and oppression for the first year or two. Afterwards, if no further unrest is present, the original dictatorship resumes its command.
These regimes have learned something very important. People with nothing to lose will go to extremes and could be eventually forced to take up arms and bring down the oppressing regime. This was witnessed in Libya and currently is being witnessed in Syria. When you have no bread on the table and your children have been hungry for weeks, the only way to get yourself heard is to pickup an AK 47 and shoot the first government enforcer you see.
The dictatorships, especially those labeled democratically elected, use the tactic of condemning violent protests and promoting peaceful resistance. This allows them to prepare plans for a government change that they can control, where their friends and cronies can take over and ensure that no one responsible for the country's dire situation will actually be punished in any way or go to jail.
Violence is usually abhorred by many governments and is frowned upon by the countries where the abundance of resources makes people averse to violent resistance. Dictatorial regimes use this as an excuse to label anyone desperate enough to take up arms as a terrorist. This word alone has the power to turn away support of other democracies for a legitimate cause.
Yet, in order to truly make a difference you have to be able to punish those in power responsible for the abuse and corruption in all countries. The United States revolution was fought for years and at times was a brutal as any war can be. But the founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson in particular, understood that freedom cannot be earned for nothing. The only price that can buy freed is blood. As Jefferson said,
the tree of liberty must be refreshed often, by the blood of patriots. That phrase explains fully what the people must do in order to earn the right to be free. No peaceful demonstrations are going to accomplish what they set out to do. No non-violent resistance can remove the oppressors from power. The only way to do that is to pickup a rifle and overthrow the regime by force.
That's why when there is a will, there is no way until your are prepared to lose your life. This can be seen in the latest revolution, now brewing in Ukraine. It will have the same outcome as the Arab Spring or even the Orange revolution of 2004-2005. The people in charge would only have to put someone else up to be elected and serve as the front man, while they continue their criminal activities.