The title has probably put a few people off. I’m really just talking about “asymmetric differences of opinion” or, at most, “asymmetric conflict”. However, I’ll stick with the more familiar phrase.
Here’s a definition:
“Asymmetric warfare originally referred to war between two or more belligerents whose relative military power differs significantly. Contemporary military thinkers tend to broaden this to include asymmetry of strategy or tactics; today “asymmetric warfare” can describe a conflict in which the resources of two belligerents differ in essence and in the struggle, interact and attempt to exploit each other’s characteristic weaknesses. Such struggles often involve strategies and tactics of unconventional warfare, the “weaker” combatants attempting to use strategy to offset deficiencies in quantity or quality. Such strategies may not necessarily be militarized. This is in contrast to symmetric warfare, where two powers have similar military power and resources and rely on conventional warfare tactics that are similar overall, differing only in details and execution.”
Do Baha’is use such strategies? Yes they do. Here’s John Walbridge offering some excellent strategic advice on a list called Majnun in 1996:
We have hit on a winning strategy, I think:
- Avoid direct confrontations whenever possible.
- If attacked, as in ****’s case, indicate that we are prepared to stand our ground and make trouble.
- Get information and ideas into circulation.
- Keep the heat on whenever it can be done without direct confrontations.
- Do not allow ourselves to be painted as bad Baha’is.
- Give the powers-that-be a graceful way out of their problems.
The Baha’i administration responded strongly to that strategy:
“The nature of the problem which your activities were creating for the Baha’i community were clarified when you accidentally posted to the . . . forum a private message apparently intended for a smaller group of participants, identified by you as “Majnun.” You cannot be unaware of the sense of betrayal experienced by your fellow Baha’is, who had believed themselves engaged in a scholarly exploration of Baha’u'llah’s purpose, when they read a statement which appeared to lay out a cynical “winning strategy” designed to use the . . . forum to spread disinformation, attack the United States National Spiritual Assembly, and bring the administrative processes of the Cause into discredit.”
Letter of Counselor Stephen Birkland to a Baha’i Academic
Yet the Baha’i community is not averse to using the exact same strategies when dealing with opponents more powerful than itself.
The Baha'is of Egypt have offered a compromise in which their ID cards have "--" or "other" entered in the religious classification field.
Take, for example, the conflict Egyptian Baha’is find themselves in. They currently have to make a choice between denying their religion or denying their citizenship and they want to change that. So the Baha’is are going with their strengths. They are:
- relying on the rule of law
- keeping the heat on while being non-confrontational,
- standing their ground when attacked
- successfully mounting and attracting a global public campaign
- offering the opposition a graceful way out of their problems
The strategy appears to have the support of the House:
“…you must stand firm and persevere in your effort to win affirmation of this right. To do less would be to deprive the authorities in Egypt of the opportunity to correct a wrong which has implications for many others, no less than for yourselves. Moreover, to relent would be to disregard the moral courage of those organizations, media, and persons of goodwill who have joined their voices to yours in the quest for a just solution to a serious inequity.”
The Univeral House of Justice, 21 December 2006, to the Baha’is of Egypt
So why was John Walbridge berated for putting the same strategy into words?
|“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
- Mohandas Gandhi