Protest is not enough to topple a dictator: The army must also turn
Mass protests alone are never enough.
What does it take to overthrow a dictator? Reflecting on this question in exile, Leon Trotsky wrote in History of the Russian Revolution (1930):
There is no doubt that the fate of every revolution at a certain point is decided by a break in the disposition of the army … Thus in the streets and squares, by the bridges, at the barrack gates, is waged a ceaseless struggle – now dramatic, now unnoticeable – but always a desperate struggle, for the heart of the soldier.
However solitary the power of an authoritarian leader might seem, dictators never rule alone. When enforcers shirk duty or rebel, the regime collapses. When they stay loyal, the regime stands. Mass protests alone are never enough.
During the Tunisian revolution, the mutiny that ultimately led to the president Zine el Abidine Ben Ali's flight from power on 14 January 2011 started in an elite police unit exceptionally deployed to protect the Ministry of Interior against the biggest demonstration to date. When protesters marched on to the presidential palace, disobedience spread to the other security forces, and Ben Ali was forced to flee hours later. When police turned, the regime fell.
But why military and police forces decide to follow one course of action over another is poorly understood. Prevailing explanations of military defection during revolutionary uprisings emphasise personal or corporate interests. In this logic, grievances spur to action rebel officers, who hope for a better deal in a new political system. Loyalists, for their part, seek to preserve their material advantages.
Behind this hard-nosed Hobbesian realism, the argument rests on a simple, commonsense account: people do what is most advantageous to them. The claim is appealing when made from a distance and with the benefit of hindsight. But it struggles to explain why men who have dedicated their career to the service of a government and who have forged their professional identity on a bedrock of discipline would come to turn around and commit insubordination. The argument gives us no account of how members of the armed and security forces come to change their understanding of their interests when facing a mass unrest.
The decision to rebel is a far cry from the execution of obvious and well-understood material interests. It is also easy to overlook how profound an ethical dilemma mass repression can pose to professional soldiers and policemen. Consider a country in the midst of a full-scale uprising. Tens or hundreds of thousands of demonstrators fill the streets of its capital city. The authoritarian ruler can no longer rely on his secret police and riot-response units. He must mobilise reserve forces, who typically carry live ammunition and have no training or experience in dealing with crowds. These men face a stark choice. Defending the regime comes at the price of massive bloodshed. Shirking duty or rebelling carry the threat of court martial and death.
Even for those with experience in repression, being made to kill tens or hundreds of innocents is often a deeply unpleasant prospect. The dilemma is first ethical and individual: it betrays a stark choice between serving one's government and serving one's country. But it quickly becomes collective. When an officer becomes aware that he's not alone in his conundrum, he begins to wonder whether his colleagues will follow orders. From this doubt emerges the possibility of his own disobedience.
Military and police mutinies rarely break out in the face of small demonstrations, but reliably occur when revolutionary uprisings reach a critical mass, making unconscionable largescale killing the government's only survival option. This year, scattered protesters in Sudan defied security forces for more than three months without prompting largescale defections; but when the opposition converged in a sit-in in front of the military's headquarters on 6 April, soldiers wavered. On the second day, they protected demonstrators against loyalist militias. And on 12 April, the military and security apparatus turned against the president Omar al-Bashir.
Rebellions that begin during uprisings often spread like wildfire throughout the military and security apparatus. The Russian revolution of 1917 began when the Volynsky Life-Guards Regiment 'refused to serve as executioners any longer', as the Soviet historian E N Burdzhalov put it in 1967; the mutiny then propagated rapidly to neighbouring regiments in Petrograd. Burdzhalov writes that, by the evening, 'no tsarist general could have taken charge of the situation to save the autocracy'.
It would be a mistake, however, to read these dynamics primarily as symptoms of widespread, longstanding grievances within the armed and security forces. They owe more, instead, to officers' attempts to align themselves with another leader. Once a mutiny begins, the threat of fratricidal violence between loyalists and rebels weighs heavily over officers' calculations. Would-be loyalists will often go along with a mutiny to avoid infighting. In Tunisia, the head of the rebellion against Ben Ali rallied two additional units by pretending to act on orders; when his colleagues understood that he had lied, they remained on his side instead of turning their weapons against him. Minutes later, Ben Ali's head of security, a loyalist, convinced the president to board a plane to Saudi Arabia, saying he feared 'a bloodbath'.
In other cases, potential rebels will abstain from joining a mutiny that they think will fail. In China, troops fraternised with demonstrators on Tiananmen Square in 1989, while officers publicly condemned the government's decision to declare martial law. Despite this vacillation, no officer took the initiative to mount an open rebellion. The government reasserted the initiative and decisively crushed the uprising.
In the language of game theory, such mutinies are coordination games: situations in which individuals seek to follow the same line of conduct at the expense of their own preferences because acting at cross purposes represents the worst possible outcome for everyone. Each must figure out what others will do, which is why expectations – mutual beliefs about what comes next – drive behaviour. Whether mutinies in revolutionary moments succeed or fail owes more to rebels' ability to create the impression that they will ineluctably succeed than to the pre-existing grievances of their colleagues.
The point has deep epistemological implications for our understanding of revolutionary outcomes. Uprisings often begin in similar ways but take wildly different paths, from political revolutions to authoritarian restoration, civil war and social revolutions. Social scientific analyses of revolutions typically seek to see past the turmoil of events to uncover subterranean patterns of causation linking slow-moving factors – the makeup of social classes, state structure, economic conditions – to different outcomes. But if armed forces make or break revolutions, and if their stance owes to events occurring on the temporal scale of hours or even minutes, then the explanatory value of such 'structural' accounts of revolutions loses much of its edge. To explain why countries diverge, we need, instead, to develop better theories regarding the impact of typical revolutionary events, such as mass protests, defections and mutinies.
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Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling has an important favor to ask of the American people.
- Michael Dowling is president and CEO of Northwell Health, the largest health care system in New York state. In this PSA, speaking as someone whose company has seen more COVID-19 patients than any other in the country, Dowling implores Americans to wear masks—not only for their own health, but for the health of those around them.
- The CDC reports that there have been close to 7.9 million cases of coronavirus reported in the United States since January. Around 216,000 people have died from the virus so far with hundreds more added to the tally every day. Several labs around the world are working on solutions, but there is currently no vaccine for COVID-19.
- The most basic thing that everyone can do to help slow the spread is to practice social distancing, wash your hands, and to wear a mask. The CDC recommends that everyone ages two and up wear a mask that is two or more layers of material and that covers the nose, mouth, and chin. Gaiters and face shields have been shown to be less effective at blocking droplets. Homemade face coverings are acceptable, but wearers should make sure they are constructed out of the proper materials and that they are washed between uses. Wearing a mask is the most important thing you can do to save lives in your community.
Two massive clouds of dust in orbit around the Earth have been discussed for years and finally proven to exist.
- Hungarian astronomers have proven the existence of two "pseudo-satellites" in orbit around the earth.
- These dust clouds were first discovered in the sixties, but are so difficult to spot that scientists have debated their existence since then.
- The findings may be used to decide where to put satellites in the future and will have to be considered when interplanetary space missions are undertaken.
What are they?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODgyMDA0NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTM1ODc0Mn0.NH33LuauIo__sUBi4tvhwxDcsvhflDFD-Nhx9FjlSNk/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=148%2C0%2C149%2C0&height=700" id="cec96" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="acb78abe2ab46a17e419ad30906751d6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Artist's impression of the Kordylewski cloud in the night sky (with its brightness greatly enhanced) at the time of the observations.
G. Horváth<p>The<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kordylewski_cloud" target="_blank"> Kordylewski clouds</a> are two dust clouds first observed by Polish astronomer Kazimierz Kordylewski in 1961. They are situated at two of the <a href="https://www.space.com/30302-lagrange-points.html" target="_blank">Lagrange points</a> in Earth's orbit. These points are locations where the gravity of two objects, such as the Earth and the Moon or a planet and the Sun, equals the centripetal required to orbit the objects while staying in the same relative position. There are five of these spots between the Earth and Moon. The clouds rest at what are called points four and five, forming a triangle with the clouds and the Earth at the three corners.</p><p>The clouds are enormous, taking up the same space in the night sky as twenty lunar discs; covering an area of 45,000 miles. They are roughly 250,000 miles away, about the same distance from us as the Moon. They are entirely comprised of specks of dust which reflect the light of the sun so faintly most astronomers that looked for them were unable to see them at all. </p><p>The clouds themselves are probably ancient, but the model that the scientists created to learn about them suggests that the individual dust particles that comprise them can be blown away by solar wind and replaced by the dust from other cosmic sources like comet tails. This means that the clouds hardly move but are <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2018/11/news-earth-moon-dust-clouds-satellites-planets-space/" target="_blank">eternally changing</a>. </p>
How did they discover this?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODgyMDAzNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1Nzc4MjQ4MX0.7uU9OqmQcWw5Ll1UXAav0PCu4nTg-GdJdAWADHanC7c/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C180%2C0%2C181&height=700" id="952fb" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a778280a20f1c54cd2c14c8313224be2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
"In this picture the central region of the Kordylewski dust cloud is visible (bright red pixels). The straight tilted lines are traces of satellites."
J. Slíz-Balogh<p>In their study published in the <a href="https://academic.oup.com/mnras" target="_blank">Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society</a>, Hungarian astronomers Judit Slíz-Balogh, András Barta, and Gábor Horváth described how they were able to find the dust clouds using polarized lenses.</p><p>Since the clouds were expected to polarize the light that bounces off of them, by configuring the telescopes to look for this kind of light the clouds were much easier to spot. What the scientists observed, polarized light in patterns that extended outside the view of the telescope lens, was in line with the predictions of their mathematical model and ruled out other possible sources. </p>
Why are we just learning this now?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODgyMDAzOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MjUyNDMyMH0.Zl8GmQ_rJHiL4b7hN0r_YBmgb6_ZqIRvqOVuko2ubpw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C141%2C0%2C185&height=700" id="87afe" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dd4c0b5088e601d7279cc5eb226f8b7b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
"Mosaic pattern of the angle of polarization around the L5 point (white dot) of the Earth-Moon system. The five rectangular windows correspond to the imaging telescope with which the patterns of the Kordylewski cloud were measured."
J. Slíz-Balogh<p>The objects, being dust clouds, are very faint and hard to see. While Kordylewski observed them in 1961, other astronomers have looked there and given mixed reports over the following decades. This discouraged many astronomers from joining the search, as study co-author Judit Slíz-Balogh <a href="https://ras.ac.uk/news-and-press/research-highlights/earths-dust-cloud-satellites-confirmed" target="_blank">explained</a>, <em>"The Kordylewski clouds are two of the toughest objects to find, and though they are as close to Earth as the Moon are largely overlooked by researchers in astronomy. It is intriguing to confirm that our planet has dusty pseudo-satellites in orbit alongside our lunar neighbor."</em></p>
Will this have any impact on space travel?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c3d797fff5430c64afcb5a49bddc3616"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ou8N3v9SFPE?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Lagrange points have been put forward as excellent locations for a space station or satellites like the <a href="https://jwst.nasa.gov/about.html" target="_blank">James Webb Telescope</a> to be put into orbit, as they would require little fuel to stay in place. Knowing about a massive dust cloud that could damage sensitive equipment already being there could save money and lives in the future. While we only know about the clouds at Lagrange points four and five right now, the study's authors suggest there could be more at the other points.</p><p>While the discovery of a couple of dust clouds might not seem all that impressive, it is the result of a half-century of astronomical and mathematical work and reminds us that wonders are still hidden in our cosmic backyard. While you might never need to worry about these clouds again, there is nothing wrong with looking at the sky with wonder at the strange and fantastic things we can discover. </p>
Eastern traditions have complex views on how karma affects your life.
- Karma is not simple retribution for bad deeds.
- Eastern traditions view karma as part of a cycle of birth and rebirth.
- Actions and intentions can influence karma, which can be both positive and negative.
Thanga Wheel of LIfe
Credit: Adobe stock
Tibetan Buddhist Wheel of Life~ Samsara Cyclic Existence<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c84ca072d61d5303c11f6290102a63ea"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/5m6Vge2JBFs?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
A persistent barrage of information is not the best method for getting through to someone with a different point of view.
- When you want someone to see things differently and to abandon their previous stance, sometimes persistence is not key.
- "Too often we think change is about pushing," says Jonah Berger, author of the book The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone's Mind, and a marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. "We think if we just come up with one more way people will eventually come around."
- Through speaking with people who have successfully changed minds of others, Berger identified five common barriers and created the REDUCE framework for finding the catalysts needed to break through: reactants, endowment, distance, uncertainty, and corroborating evidence.