Armenia: Electric Yerevan and lessons on the Color-Spring tactic

by Joaquin Flores
June 27, 2015
A Fort Russ and Greanville Post Feature

The Electric Yerevan protest provides us with an excellent opportunity to review some of the basic underlying mechanics and psychology of the Color-Spring tactic.  It is important to share these publicly, for it is indeed probable that the Color-Spring tactic will be increasingly applied in the world as a “hybrid soft-power/hard-power tactic”.
A moral principle held by Gene Sharp, who was one of the tactic’s main developers, was that violence is not necessary for revolution. What is strange, contradictory, even dishonest here is that violence is reduced taxonomically to the physical violence of the state’s gendarmes against the civilians.  But we know that violence comes in many forms.
We live in a time of great violence; physical, psychological, legal, economic, spiritual violence.  Not only has the Color Revolution tactic engendered the latter four, but its mutation into the Arab Spring tactic also employs heinous physical violence.  We can see today, tens of thousands dead in Libya, hundreds of thousands in Syria, and a mounting figure in Ukraine which threatens to surpass the precedents.
“Non-violent” change in Syria
Novices to political science and political activism may be lured by the spectre and spectacle of the Color Revolution method that has characterized ostensible movements for radical social change in the last generation.  The symbols have become iconic and clichéd: the tent city, the die-in, the girl placing flowers in the gendarme’s gun barrels, water cannons and tear-gas, the fist flag.
What is missing of course from this view is an understanding of the real social forces in a society, class and economic forces.  For forty years, genuine activism, labor union militancy, has been marginalized.  In place of direct action against the ruling class at the very places that make their wealth, is a strange simulation of late 1960’s student activism; shown to us on a never-ending film reel loop.
Others have caught on to the fact that the US has been funding these protest movements, and that these ‘grass-roots’ movements are in fact astroturf movements.  Still, it is misunderstood how the US viewed these governments before they tried to destabilize them.
One thing which is often popularly misunderstood about the Color-Spring tactic, by those who know that the US is behind them, is that governments being targeted for regime change by the US are not just those which have apparently bad relations with the US, but may in fact be generally US-friendly governments.  By and large, in fact, the latter is the case.  We will be exploring this aspect as it relates to Armenia.
Also we will look at some of the methods used in the application of this tactic in Armenia, and at the general psychological and technical framework of the organizing methods.
Gene Sharp – a man of ‘Non-Violence’
Why the US Targets ‘Regimes’ for ‘Change’
In the Color-Spring tactic, the US may target countries for ‘regime change’ that it has had generally constructive relations with, but whose other ties are increasingly problematic.  It may be also generally friendly countries who refuse to commit resources to reshaping regional power balances, such as with Mubarak in Egypt, who was reluctant to interfere with Syria.  Another reason may be that the targeted country has a natural relationship with other countries in its region which, regardless of the official position of the government, promotes certain economic and meta-political relationships and developments which are contrary to US interests.  In the latter case, it may be desirable to employ a scorched earth policy, known as the ‘failed state’, in order to destroy the material foundations of economic and political coherency.
Given the failure of the Orange Revolution to frustrate relations with Russia, the situation in Ukraine may be an example of this scorched earth/failed state strategy.   Conclusively, the Color-Spring tactic is compatible with any number of strategies, and can be a part of producing any number of desired outcomes, and as such is a very useful weapon to possess.
How the US Sets up a ‘Regime’ for ‘Change’