You Say You Want a (Nonviolent) Revolution, Well Then What? Translating Western Thought, Strategic Ideological Cooptation, and Institution Building for Freedom for Governments Emerging Out of Peaceful Chaos

Donald J. Kochan

Chapman University School of Law

April 18, 2012

West Virginia Law Review, Vol. 114, pp. 897-935, 2012
Chapman University Law Research Paper No. 12-6

With nonviolent revolution in particular, displaced governments leave a power and governance vacuum waiting to be filled. Such vacuums are particularly susceptible to what this Article will call “strategic ideological cooptation.” Following the regime disruption, peaceful chaos transitions into a period in which it is necessary to structure and order the emergent governance scheme. That period in which the new government scheme emerges is particularly fraught with danger when growing from peaceful chaos because nonviolent revolutions tend to be decentralized, unorganized, unsophisticated, and particularly vulnerable to cooptation.

Any external power wishing to influence events in societies emerging out of peaceful chaos must accept the fact that multiple, competing interests will try to coopt any society in transition and unless that power wishes to cede that transition to an opposing ideology, that power must engage in cooptation itself. The events beginning in 2011 that have been popularly named the “Arab Spring” provide some useful examples for testing the concepts of influence, soft power and strategic ideological cooptation discussed in this Article. As a countervailing “interest group,” Westerners can use their soft power to (a) provide a force that moderates the power of the radical interest groups that will undoubtedly seek to influence the emerging regimes themselves; or (b) win the battle for strategic ideological cooptation by advancing arguments in favor of classical liberal thought that will consume the minds and guide the actions of the replacement leaders.

This article describes the importance of Western legal thought as influential to the development of emerging societies, including a particular emphasis on the importance of institution building within such societies. It contends that democratic election and/or the recognition of rights, while integral to the overall advancement of such societies, cannot flourish without the development of key institutions of limited governance.

The article concludes by discussing one method that the United States and similarly aligned interests can use to begin that engagement in strategic ideological cooptation – supporting translations of classic Western legal and philosophical thought into Arabic. It also includes a response to Secretary of State Hillary Clintons remarks at a March 2011 Senate Appropriations Committee Meeting where Secretary Clinton was asked to directly comment on this Author’s work that has been critical of existing U.S. State Department translation programs including the Arabic Book Program.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 40

Keywords: Arab Spring, Egypt, Egyptian Elections, vacuums, Cairo Embassy, ideological cooptation, translations, Arabic book program, Hillary Clinton, State Department, soft power, NYE, transitional governments, Middle East policy, Muslim Brotherhood, foreign policy, cultural diplomacy, international relations

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Date posted: April 19, 2012 ; Last revised: April 4, 2013

Suggested Citation

Kochan, Donald J., You Say You Want a (Nonviolent) Revolution, Well Then What? Translating Western Thought, Strategic Ideological Cooptation, and Institution Building for Freedom for Governments Emerging Out of Peaceful Chaos (April 18, 2012). West Virginia Law Review, Vol. 114, pp. 897-935, 2012; Chapman University Law Research Paper No. 12-6. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2042299

Contact Information

Donald J. Kochan (Contact Author)
Chapman University School of Law ( email )
One University Drive
Orange, CA 92866-1099
United States
714-628-2618 (Phone)
714-628-2576 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.donaldjkochan.com
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