With undoubtedly the best of intentions in mind, both scholarly analysis and activist advocacy of non-violence emphasizes the potential for non-violent civil disobedience to effect normative political change. This includes the role of non-violence in reducing or even eliminating violent conflict. Non-violence is not without its critics, some more constructive than others. This paper considers the relationship between non-violence and its antithesis, violence itself and seeks to orientate analysis towards a framework that examines how non-violent strategies become vulnerable to manipulation by those actors who have not eliminated physical force from their strategic repertoire. The analysis draws on two empirical examples to draw out the conditions whereby ostensible non-violence tactics has augmented existing violent campaigns. The paper concludes that the discursive framework and moral imperative underpinning non-violence ultimately remains subordinate to coercive power, and the relationship between violent and non-violent resistance is an inextricable rather than a dichotomous one. The study argues that a clearer distinction be made between non-violence as an end in and of itself, and non-violence as a means to an end. The success or failure of non-violent strategies is contingent on variables that influence the political and security calculus of state actors. These include such factors such as established conflict regulation potential, legitimized public values and mechanisms, popular and international exposure and the broader spatio-temporal context. The analysis offers a realistic appraisal of the role of non-violence in violent contexts.
Keywords: Conflict, Non-violence, Strategy