Yglesias explains why non-violence can work:

 The reality is that modern military technology makes it extraordinarily difficult to actually defeat a state on the battlefield. A dissident movement just isn’t going to be able to be able to blow up tanks Whereistheirvote and airplanes. Under the circumstances, strategic nonviolence is a vital tactic. If you were to try to fight the security forcesshoot some policemen, sayyou’d encourage a more serious crackdown. It’s through nonviolent resistance that you heighten the psychological contradictions, and encourage the regime and its enforcers to blink. From the Velvet Revolution to Tiananmen Square to the Orange Revolution to what’s happening today in Iran, the brave dissidents are essentially daring the security forces to beat or kill them. The bet is that when push comes to shove, people in the Iranian security forces have some humane and patriotic instincts and will recoil from the idea of using mass violence against their fellow citizens. And it’s a terrifying bet. We’ve seen time and again that it’s a bet that often pays off, but as we learned in China 20 years ago there are no guarantees.

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