ONE: FACING DICTATORSHIPS REALISTICALLY
In recent years various dictatorships -- of both internal and external origin -- have collapsed or stumbled when confronted by defiant, mobilized people. Often seen as firmly entrenched and impregnable, some of these dictatorships proved unable to withstand the concerted political, economic, and social defiance of the people.
Since 1980 dictatorships have collapsed before the predominantly nonviolent defiance of people in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Slovenia, Madagascar, Mali, Bolivia, and the Philippines. Nonviolent resistance has furthered the movement toward democratization in Nepal, Zambia, South Korea, Chile, Argentina, Haiti, Brazil, Uruguay, Malawi, Thailand, Bulgaria, Hungary, Zaire, Nigeria, and various parts of the former Soviet Union (playing a significant role in the defeat of the August 1991 attempted hard-line coup d'etat).
In addition, mass political defiance  has occurred in China, Burma, and Tibet in recent years. Although those struggles have not brought an end to the ruling dictatorships or occupations, they have exposed the brutal nature of those repressive regimes to the world community and have provided the populations with valuable experience with this form of struggle.
The collapse of dictatorships in the above named countries certainly has not erased all other problems in those societies: poverty, crime, bureaucratic inefficiency, and environmental destruction are often the legacy of brutal regimes. However, the downfall of these dictatorships has minimally lifted much of the suffering of the victims of oppression, and has opened the way for the rebuilding of these societies with greater political democracy, personal liberties, and social justice.A continuing problem
There has indeed been a trend towards greater democratization and freedom in the world in the past decades. According to Freedom House, which compiles a yearly international survey of the status of political rights and civil liberties, the number of countries around the world classified as "free" has grown significantly in the last ten years: 
Free - Partly Free - Not Free
1983 - 55 - 76 - 64
1993 - 75 - 73 - 38
Much of the coup apparatus is the same that was used in the overthrow of President Fernando Marcos of the Philippines in 1986, the Tiananmen Square destabilization in 1989, and Vaclav Havel's "Velvet revolution" in Czechoslavakia in 1989. As in these early operations, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and its primary arms, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and International Republican Institute (IRI), played a central role. The NED was established by the Reagan Administration in 1983, to do overtly what the CIA had done covertly, in the words of one of its legislative drafters, Allen Weinstein. The Cold War propaganda and operations center, Freedom House, now chaired by former CIA director James Woolsey, has also been involved, as were billionaire George Soros' foundations, whose donations always dovetail those of the NED.
What is new about the template bears on the use of the Internet (in particular chat rooms, instant messaging, and blogs) and cell phones (including text-messaging), to rapidly steer angry and suggestible "Generation X" youth into and out of mass demonstrations and the like -- a capability that only emerged in the mid-1990s. "With the crushing ubiquity of cell phones, satellite phones, PCs, modems and the Internet," Laura Rosen emphasized in Salon Magazine on February 3, 2001,"the information age is shifting the advantage from authoritarian leaders to civic groups." She might have mentioned the video games that helped create the deranged mindset of these "civic groups." The repeatedly emphasized role played by so-called "Discoshaman" and his girlfriend "Tulipgirl," in assisting the "Orange Revolution" through their aptly named blog, "Le Sabot Post-Moderne," is indicative of the technical and sociological components involved.
-- Obama, the Postmodern Coup, by Webster Griffin Tarpley
However, this positive trend is tempered by the large numbers of peoples still living under conditions of tyranny. As of January 1993, 31% of the world's 5.45 billion population lived in countries and territories designated as "not free,"  that is, areas with extremely restricted political rights and civil liberties. The 38 countries and 12 territories in the "not free" category are ruled by a range of military dictatorships (as in Burma and Sudan), traditional repressive monarchies (as in Saudi Arabia and Bhutan), dominant political parties (as in China, Iraq, and North Korea), foreign occupiers (as in Tibet and East Timor), or are in a state of transition.
Many countries today are in a state of rapid economic, political, and social change. Although the number of "free" countries has increased in the past ten years, there is a great risk that many nations, in the face of such rapid fundamental changes, will move in the opposite direction and experience new forms of dictatorship. Military cliques, ambitious individuals, elected officials, and doctrinal political parties will repeatedly seek to impose their will. Coups d'etat are and will remain a common occurrence. Basic human and political rights will continue to be denied to vast numbers of peoples.
Unfortunately, the past is still with us. The problem of dictatorships is deep. People in many countries have experienced decades or even centuries of oppression, whether of domestic or foreign origin. Frequently, unquestioning submission to authority figures and rulers has been long inculcated. In extreme cases, the social, political, economic, and even religious institutions of the society -- outside of state control -- have been deliberately weakened, subordinated, or even replaced by new regimented institutions used by the state or ruling party to control the society. The population has often been atomized (turned into a mass of isolated individuals) unable to work together to achieve freedom, to confide in each other, or even to do much of anything at their own initiative.
The result is predictable: the population becomes weak, lacks self-confidence, and is incapable of resistance. People are often too frightened to share their hatred of the dictatorship and their hunger for freedom even with family and friends. People are often too terrified to think seriously of public resistance. In any case, what would be the use? Instead, they face suffering without purpose and a future without hope.
Current conditions in today's dictatorships may be much worse than earlier. In the past, some people may have attempted resistance. Short-lived mass protests and demonstrations may have occurred. Perhaps spirits soared temporarily. At other times, individuals and small groups may have conducted brave but impotent gestures, asserting some principle or simply their defiance. However noble the motives, such past acts of resistance have often been insufficient to overcome the people's fear and habit of obedience, a necessary prerequisite to destroy the dictatorship. Sadly, those acts may have brought instead only increased suffering and death, not victories or even hope.Freedom through violence?
What is to be done in such circumstances? The obvious possibilities seem useless. Constitutional and legal barriers, judicial decisions, and public opinion are normally ignored by dictators. Understandably, reacting to the brutalities, torture, disappearances, and killings, people often have concluded that only violence can end a dictatorship. Angry victims have sometimes organized to fight the brutal dictators with whatever violent and military capacity they could muster, despite the odds being against them. These people have often fought bravely, at great cost in suffering and lives. Their accomplishments have sometimes been remarkable, but they rarely have won freedom. Violent rebellions can trigger brutal repression that frequently leaves the populace more helpless than before.
Whatever the merits of the violent option, however, one point is clear. By placing confidence in violent means, one has chosen the very type of struggle with which the oppressors nearly always have superiority. The dictators are equipped to apply violence overwhelmingly. However long or briefly these democrats can continue, eventually the harsh military realities usually become inescapable. The dictators almost always have superiority in military hardware, ammunition, transportation, and the size of military forces. Despite bravery, the democrats are (almost always) no match.
When conventional military rebellion is recognized as unrealistic, some dissidents then favor guerrilla warfare. However, guerrilla warfare rarely, if ever, benefits the oppressed population or ushers in a democracy. Guerrilla warfare is no obvious solution, particularly given the very strong tendency toward immense casualties among one's own people. The technique is no guarantor against failure, despite supporting theory and strategic analyses, and sometimes international backing. Guerrilla struggles often last a very long time. Civilian populations are often displaced by the ruling government, with immense human suffering and social dislocation.
Even when successful, guerrilla struggles often have significant long-term negative structural consequences. Immediately, the attacked regime becomes more dictatorial as a result of its countermeasures. If the guerrillas should finally succeed, the resulting new regime is often more dictatorial than its predecessor due to the centralizing impact of the expanded military forces and the weakening or destruction of the society's independent groups and institutions during the struggle -- bodies that are vital in establishing and maintaining a democratic society. Opponents of dictatorships should look for another option.Coups, elections, foreign saviors?
A military coup d'etat against a dictatorship might appear to be relatively one of the easiest and quickest ways to remove a particularly repugnant regime. However, there are very serious problems with that technique. Most importantly, it leaves in place the existing maldistribution of power between the population and the elite in control of the government and its military forces. The removal of particular persons and cliques from the governing positions most likely will merely make it possible for another group to take their place. Theoretically, this group might be milder in its behavior and be open in limited ways to democratic reforms. However, the opposite is as likely to be the case.
After consolidating its position, the new clique may turn out to be more ruthless and more ambitious than the old one. Consequently, the new clique -- in which hopes may have been placed -- will be able to do whatever it wants without concern for democracy or human rights. That is not an acceptable answer to the problem of dictatorship.
Elections are not available under dictatorships as an instrument of significant political change. Some dictatorial regimes, such as those of the former Soviet-dominated Eastern bloc, went through the motions in order to appear democratic. Those elections, however, were merely rigidly controlled plebiscites to get public endorsement of candidates already hand-picked by the dictators. Dictators under pressure may at times agree to new elections, but then rig them to place civilian puppets in government offices. If opposition candidates have been allowed to run and were actually elected, as occurred in Burma in 1990 and Nigeria in 1993, results may simply be ignored and the "victors" subjected to intimidation, arrest, or even execution. Dictators are not in the business of allowing elections that could remove them from their thrones.
Many people now suffering under a brutal dictatorship, or who have gone into exile to escape its immediate grasp, do not believe that the oppressed can liberate themselves. They expect that their people can only be saved by the actions of others. These people place their confidence in external forces. They believe that only international help can be strong enough to bring down the dictators.
The view that the oppressed are unable to act effectively is sometimes accurate for a certain time period. As noted, often oppressed people are unwilling and temporarily unable to struggle because they have no confidence in their ability to face the ruthless dictatorship, and no known way to save themselves. It is therefore understandable that many people place their hope for liberation in others. This outside force may be "public opinion," the United Nations, a particular country, or international economic and political sanctions.
Such a scenario may sound comforting, but there are grave problems with this reliance on an outside savior. Such confidence may be totally misplaced. Usually no foreign saviors are coming, and if a foreign state does intervene, it probably should not be trusted.
[Narrator] The revolution as a celebration. This is the spirit of Gene Sharp. Every movement becomes a brand with its own symbolism. Oranges in Ukraine, the Rose Revolution in Georgia, the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan, the Denim Revolution in Belarus. All different symbols, but with the same concept and the same sponsor: The United States of America.
-- The Revolution Business, by Patrick A. Hafner, Alexander Steinbach -- Screenplay
A few harsh realities concerning reliance on foreign intervention need to be emphasized here:
• Frequently foreign states will tolerate, or even positively assist, a dictatorship in order to advance their own economic or political interests.
• Foreign states also may be willing to sell out an oppressed people instead of keeping pledges to assist their liberation at the cost of another objective.
• Some foreign states will act against a dictatorship only to gain their own economic, political, or military control over the country.
• The foreign states may become actively involved for positive purposes only if and when the internal resistance movement has already begun shaking the dictatorship, having thereby focused international attention on the brutal nature of the regime.
Dictatorships usually exist primarily because of the internal power distribution in the home country. The population and society are too weak to cause the dictatorship serious problems, wealth and power are concentrated in too few hands. Although dictatorships may benefit from or be somewhat weakened by international actions, their continuation is dependent primarily on internal factors.
Image: G. William Domhoff, UC Santa Cruz
So what does all this mean in terms of net worth? Well, for starters, it means that the top 1% of Americans own 42% of the financial wealth in this country. The top 5%, meanwhile, own nearly 70%.
-- Here's What the Wall Street Protesters Are So Angry About, by Henry Blodget, Business Insider
International pressures can be very useful, however, when they are supporting a powerful internal resistance movement. Then, for example. international economic boycotts, embargoes, the breaking of diplomatic relations, expulsion from international organizations, condemnation by United Nations bodies, and the like can assist greatly. However, in the absence of a strong internal resistance movement such actions by others are unlikely to happen.Facing the hard truth
The conclusion is a hard one. When one wants to bring down a dictatorship most effectively and with the least cost then one has four immediate tasks:
• One must strengthen the oppressed population themselves in their determination, self-confidence, and resistance skills;
• One must strengthen the independent social groups and institutions of the oppressed people;
• One must create a powerful internal resistance force; and
• One must develop a wise grand strategic plan for liberation and implement it skillfully.
A liberation struggle is a time for self-reliance and internal strengthening of the struggle group. As Charles Stewart Parnell called out during the Irish rent strike campaign in 1879 and 1880:
It is no use relying on the Government .... You must only rely upon your own determination .... [H]elp yourselves by standing together ... strengthen those amongst yourselves who are weak ..., band yourselves together, organize yourselves ... and you must win ....
When you have made this question ripe for settlement, then and not till then will it be settled. 
Against a strong self-reliant force, given wise strategy, disciplined and courageous action, and genuine strength, the dictatorship will eventually crumble. Minimally, however, the above four requirements must be fulfilled.
As the above discussion indicates, liberation from dictatorships ultimately depends on the people's ability to liberate themselves. The cases of successful political defiance -- or nonviolent struggle for political ends cited above -- indicate that the means do exist for populations to free themselves, but that option has remained undeveloped. We will examine this option in detail in the following chapters. However, we should first look at the issue of negotiations as a means of dismantling dictatorships.