So, I’m not trying to say that the IRA bombings fit within the purview of civil disobedience, but a War Nerd article I read tonight has changed my mind about the strategy behind the bombings. The WN article argues that at least in the decade preceding the Good Friday Accords, IRA bombings were carried out primarily as displays of force and to cause expensive damage to real estate, not to kill people. Deaths and injuries occurred, but the IRA made significant efforts to minimize casualties, and refused to commit revenge killings after SAS-supported loyalist death squads tortured and murdered Catholic civilians.
I’m reading Gene Sharp’s “Waging Nonviolent Struggle” now, and I’m wondering, if the IRA’s tactics were dialed back a bit, could they be described as non-violent intervention–Sharp’s most extreme category of resistance? The War Nerd article mentions that in 1994 the IRA launched a mortar attack on Heathrow Airport using dud mortars. Could that qualify as nonviolent method number 178: guerrilla theater or 183: Nonviolent land seizure (the airport was evacuated for hours)? Russian art group Voina flipped over police cars as a political art project, could the destruction of a building that resulted in zero injuries be considered non-violent action? What about destruction of data or intellectual property on a massive scale? Computer viruses that freeze police communications? Bluffs or pranks that temporarily close mass transit or halt traffic in a city? Certainly, if someone were in an ambulance that couldn’t reach the hospital they could be injured or killed by such non-violent action. Sharp is clear in saying that he does not advocate non-violent tactics for moral reasons, but strictly for pragmatic strategic and tactical ones. He believes that non-violence works better than violent resistance and results in lower casualties, but it does not eliminate casualties. The question is, what is the scale of the problem or the oppression and what scale of action–and resulting consequences can be justified?
As a tangential side note, could Project Mayhem from Fight Club (the movie, not the book) be considered a non-violent resistance movement?