Saturday, February 26, 2011

Iran: Deprogramming The Basij

The Iranian people are not setting themselves up for success.

The Basij are very committed, perhaps brainwashed, to worry about the state, it's ideals, and it's leaders. Revolutionaries, using slogans such as "Death to Dictator" are setting themselves up in direct conflict with the Basij.

Do the Basij think they are supporting a dictator? Given their mental world view and how widely divergent the protesters views must appear it is hard to imagine that they would not imagine some type of subversion.

To deprogram the Basij you must slip past their programming. You must fit inside their world view and then shine a light on easy to see problems. I refer to the process of showing someone the error of their propaganda fed beliefs "speaking truth to lies".

If you want to make it harder for the Basij to run you down and beat you with a stick for being on the street -- you must be on the same side. So, where is the common ground?

Is the common ground the language of the Iranian constitution? Is the common ground some principles of Islam that all can agree on? Is the common ground some form of patriotism other than regime worship?

If the role of the Basij in the regime is to ferret out "subversives" then, if you are going to protest, you need to find a way to communicate effectively, that is not subversive. Once you fit the role of a subversive they are programmed to harass, arrest, intimidate, and suppress. Stop stepping into that role and then hoping the Basij will magically stop doing their jobs.

The people deserve peace. The people deserve freedom. The people deserve jobs and prosperity. The people deserve effective government. The people deserve honest state media. The people have rights. None of these things should be arguable.

I'd suggest getting a message inside the head of the Basij which defuses the direct conflict that has been created. They simply must be shown that the people are not subverted or subversive. They then must see that their treatment of the people is horribly wrong -- and start asking their own questions.

If the Basij are bent on protecting an Islamic Regime, then the Qur'an would be a good place to look for support. Does the Qur'an not state that people must be treated with respect? Does the Qur'an not provide for free speech? Does the Qur'an not argue against the work of the Basij?

Seriously, do you think "Death to Dictator" is making the Basij do anything other than shake their heads? If they believe in the legitimacy of the regime they can only imagine that some type of external influence has "taken hold" of your senses.

People know the difference between right and wrong. Remind them of it. Start cracking the armor of the regime by highlighting the conflicts between Islam and the regime in a way that is visibly clear. When you start to achieve this, weakening the resolve of the Basij, you may eventually have much better luck holding a demonstration.

When the enforcement arms of the regime do not have the will to attack the people, the people win. Before then, it's simply those in power acting on the powerless. Remove that will in a way that fits inside the mindset of the programmed instead of hardening it's stance.

Update: This is not a call for protest or revolt. However, if you are yelling out your window at night... perhaps find something less emotional and more strategic to include in your message.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Revolution: Toppling A Regime

How does a regime topple?

A regime topples when everyone knows it does not deserve power and it crumbles from within. A regime topples when it's head is chopped off by another power. A regime topples when it is unable to exert power over it's domain.

Offering up the lives of protesters is certainly one way to work towards the goal of regime change. Surely some percentage of regime loyalists are sickened by the work of killing innocent peaceful people. These people can tell family members or good friends their feelings and speak truth to the regimes propaganda.

Recent events seem to favor this method of revolution. While the regime refrains from wanton abuse, arrests, torture and killing I would tend to agree. However, once the regime resorts to violence I am of the opinion that limiting resistance to passive peaceful means is a risky and wasteful way to go about this.

I'm often told that if you are as bad as the regime then what difference is there? How do you win?

This is a false comparison. The citizens of Egypt defended themselves from armed thugs with violence and razed police headquarters. Nobody has considered them to have been inappropriately violent. It isn't about only acting peacefully. It is about acting with respect for life and being willing to revert to peaceful means if the opportunity presents itself.

In fact, one of the most important actions of the Egyptians was to surround the state television propaganda machine. Even without violence the people inside were scared and started explaining their actions to the entire nation. The truth was now being sent out to those that were not hooked into the Internet revolution. Many who were not certain before learned that the regime did not deserve power.

So many people figured this out that the regime caved in shortly thereafter.

I consider the situation of Iran to be very different than that of Egypt. In Iran the regime has shown a callous disregard for life. Torture and executions are an ongoing daily occurrence. Foreign press is afraid to attempt to report as they too will face imprisonment and execution. Propaganda is strongly in the control of the regime and nobody seems to be able to counter it -- the Internet is not even available as a source of truth right now.

If the people of Iran want to win they will have to counter the regime. They will need to remove the instruments of repression. This includes sources of propaganda, source of violence towards the populace, and the means of controlling those instruments. Doing so will allow them to protest in large enough numbers and loudly enough that truth will be told to counter the regimes lies.

How can they target the Basij? Simple, as Egypt did. Burn down their buildings and facilities. It's hard to ride motorcycles out to terrorize the populace if they have been destroyed. This is not murderous violence -- it is targeted against things. Molotov cocktails are easy to make, small groups can deliver tens of them, and buildings can be taken out. All the better if a crowd was present for the brave to disperse within.

If the people do win the streets, the next hurdle is the army. How will they react to orders if the Basij are ineffective? What about the revolutionary guard which is not composed of common people who are likely to understand the trials of the populace? In any case, if the military does not resort to outright violence then the people can take further actions.

Whether before or after disorganizing the Basij it would be a good idea for the state propaganda machine to be dismantled. It's pretty hard to tell lies if your state controlled TV stations are no longer broadcasting. If the Basij and authorities are still around you can only damage them -- however, if resistance has been reduced it may be possible to surround and eventually control the facilities. Peacefully eliminating the propaganda and changing the nature of the broadcasts would be very powerful.

At this point, if these items were accomplished, we'd be left in a situation similar to that near the end of Egypt's regime. The police were dispersed, thugs were fought off and dispersed, and the army decided that it was not in the business of slaughtering the populace. The people gathered, and gathered more, generating so much support and spreading so much truth that the regime was crumbling from within. The army stepped in to chop off the head of the regime when it did not have the good grace to exit.

I'm sure others will be able to devise better strategies than I.

However, it's clear that in the face of intense violence and brutality that the populace may have to take measures to counter the government. Truth must be spread and large numbers of the populace must become emboldened to participate. Mid-level and low-level employees of the state must become empowered to the point of resigning positions in protest.