Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"Soft" Power, Hard Luck


The "soft power" arm of US intervention in the rest of the world has for some time now been ostensibly enamored with the idea of non-violent resistance and civil disobedience. The big push for "non-violence" has been largely mobilized through a handful of institutions that are wholly or partially funded by the US government and yet bizarrely insist on calling themselves "non-governmental." Much of this new found love for non-violence is directed at the Arab and Iranian audience, even as the US government drops bombs, arms militias, and enhances Israeli military might.

The State Department and UASAID funded Freedom House translates for Iranians one book on Non-violent Resistance, and the US congress funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) translates for Iranians another book on the topic. I heard that even the Palestinian activist, Mubarak Award of Non-Violence International, who I once met and admired, had received funding from some fishy sources to do work on Iran.

I have much to say about these governmental non-governmental organizations and their destructive role throughout the world, and in West Asia in particular, but today, I just want to raise these questions: Given that "fire brand cleric" Moqtada Al-Sadr has threatened a massive civil-disobedience campaign, will NED make him one of its grantees? Will Freedom House sponsor Moqtada to come participate as one of the "high-profile candidates from the Middle East and North Africa" it picks for a six-week, all expenses paid tour of the United States?

These questions are important not because the obvious answer to them is a big fat "no", but because they get at the fundamental hypocrisy of organizations that hide behind, misuse, and therefore defile even the most commendable principles.