Civilian-based defense or social defence  describes non-military action by a society or social group, particularly in a context of a sustained campaign against outside attack or dictatorial rule – or preparations for such a campaign in the event of external attack or usurpation. There are various near-synonyms, including "non-violent defence", "civilian defence" and "defence by civil resistance". Whatever term is used, this approach involves preparations for and use of a range of actions – which can be variously called nonviolent resistance and civil resistance – for national defence against invasion, coup d'état and other threats.
Writings about this concept include works by Brigadier General Edward B. Atkeson, Erica Chenoweth (U.S.) and Maria Stephan (U.S.), Theodor Ebert (Germany), Brian Martin (Australia), Adam Roberts (UK), Gene Sharp (U.S.), Heinz Vetschera (Austria), and others.
Other usages of term
"Social defence" as defined and summarized here is distinct from certain other usages of this term. For example, within the framework of its system of Total Defence, the Singapore government's civil defence/national security policy uses the term "social defence" as a synonym for social inclusion policies.
Gene Sharp's views
Civilian-based defense, according to Professor Gene Sharp, a scholar of non-violent struggle, is a "policy [in which] the whole population and the society's institutions become the fighting forces. Their weaponry consists of a vast variety of forms of psychological, economic, social, and political resistance and counter-attack. This policy aims to deter attacks and to defend against them by preparations to make a society unrulable by would-be-tyrants and aggressors. The trained population and the society's institutions would be prepared to deny the attackers their objectives and to make consolidation of political control impossible. These aims would be achieved by applying massive and selective noncooperation and defiance. In addition, where possible, the defending country would aim to create maximum international problems for the attackers and to subvert the reliability of their troops and functionaries." Civilian-based defense and the complementary method of Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping (UCP; cf. Nonviolent Peaceforce) carried out by third parties in collaboration with civil-society groups in the affected country are the two institutions developed in the field of nonviolence since Gandhi and King that offer an alternative to military defense (and thus potentially to the war system as a whole).
Sharp also wrote that the term civilian-based defense "indicates defense by civilians (as distinct from military personnel) using civilian means of struggle (as distinct from military and paramilitary means). This is a policy intended to deter and defeat foreign military invasions, occupations, and internal usurpations.":6 This defense "is meant to be waged by the population and its institutions on the basis of advance preparation, planning, and training.":7 However, the potential for civilian-based-defense as a complement to military defense has also been raised.
The Civilian-based Defense Association and its magazine Civilian-based Defense promoted the policy. Concerning the potential for these tactics, Can Erimtan wrote, "Gene Sharp... has written... books on 'Civilian-Based Defense' and democracy that can serve as blueprints for popular uprisings against authoritarian regimes."
Application of idea to particular countries
A number of studies have considered the possible application to particular countries of the idea of a defence policy based on civil resistance. In the United Kingdom, in 1959 Commander Sir Stephen King-Hall supported unilateral nuclear disarmament by Britain, and proposed an alternative containing some reliance on conventional force plus "a defence system of non-violence against violence". Brigadier General Edward B. Atkeson wrote in 1976, "CBD may have some attractiveness to Japan. Certainly the program would have more appeal to the strong pacifist element in the society then would heavy investment in military rearmament, and yet it would provide a unique measure of novel self-reliance which might also appeal to more militant nationalist groups...Japan could become the first major power in history to develop a formula for securing its way of life without a military defense”. Concerning Norway during World War II, Atkeson notes, The leadership of the Norwegian resistance recognized the futility of a ‘children’s crusade’ against the German troops but was able to mount a successful nonviolent struggle against the domestic fascist administration which led ultimately to collapse of the regime.” He adds “Other countries which may, at some time, come to believe that there are greater benefits fewer risks in CBD then in military defense are Portugal, Luxembourg, Denmark, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands... If there is a major power in Europe with some prospect of an opportunity for transarmament, it may be France… with no foreign forces on its soil, and few commitments abroad of consequence.” In 1983 an independent non-governmental body in the UK, the Alternative Defence Commission, examined the idea thoroughly and saw possibilities in it, but came out in favour of NATO countries adopting a posture of "defensive deterrence" – i.e. deterrence based on non-nuclear weapons and strategies, including an element of military defence in depth.
With regard to an invasion where the goal is simply to occupy territory, Michael Randel observes, “If, for instance, the opponent's aim is to establish a strategic outpost in a remote area, there may be little or no face-to- face contact with the indigenous population. Obviously any dependence on local supplies offers a possible point of leverage but, as Sharp suggests, it may be more appropriate in such cases to concentrate on mustering international pressure, for instance by third-party countries and by the UN. Some of his suggestions for meeting this kind of situation have a flavour of de Ligt - 'organised action by dock workers, pilots, airport workers and others to halt travel, transportation, and shipping of needed materials'. In exceptional circumstances, he suggests, a 'non-violent invasion', along the lines of the attempted invasion of the Portuguese enclave of Goa in 1955 by Indian satyagrahis, might be attempted."
Since the end of the Cold War the idea of defence by civil resistance has been pursued in a number of countries, including the Baltic states. Maria J. Stephan notes, "At least one national government, Lithuania, has made civilian-based defense, which involves the use of mass civil resistance and noncooperation to deter and repel foreign attacks, a core component of its national defense strategy."
In a 2009 survey of various studies of the viability of defence by civil resistance, Adam Roberts concludes by raising a question, not about the utility of civil resistance generally, but about its capacity to be a complete substitute for military force.
- Civil defense
- Civil disobedience
- Kapp Putsch
- Prague Spring
- Nonviolent resistance
- Revolutions of 1989
- “Social Defence: Nonviolent Community Resistance to Aggression,” Broadsheet published by Canberra Peacemakers, April 1982. Main authors: Sky Hopkins, Brian Martin, Claire Runciman and Frances Sutherland. Reprinted with alterations by the Social Defence Project, Canada, 1983, and Peace News, 1984. Russian version and translation, 1984, prepared by Canberra Peacemakers. This e-version contains a few changes and corrections: https://documents.uow.edu.au/~bmartin/pubs/82sd/; Internet Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20200529174909/https://documents.uow.edu.au/~bmartin/pubs/82sd/
- Brigadier General Edward B. Atkeson, “The Relevance of Civilian-Based Defense to US Security Interests” (2 parts), Part I, Military Review, May 1976, pages 24-32. go to: http://cgsc.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p124201coll1/id/328/rec/9 and click on 329.pdf [2.73 MB]. Part 2, Military Review, June 1976, pages 45-55, https://books.google.com/books?id=d7xFqohDcJMC&pg=PA45&lpg=PA45&dq=%22EDWARD+B.+ATKESON%22+%22the+relevance+of+CIVILIAN-BASED+DEFENSE+to+U.S.+security+interests%22&source=bl&ots=08lYWkfUxz&sig=ACfU3U1cjoLlxPGOmcccC-NZzNnSNvcGiQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjMsrTKpu7qAhUCVd8KHUDND0UQ6AEwAnoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=%22EDWARD%20B.%20ATKESON%22%20%22the%20relevance%20of%20CIVILIAN-BASED%20DEFENSE%20to%20U.S.%20security%20interests%22&f=false
- Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan, Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict, Columbia University Press, New York, 2011.
- See e.g. the various contributions, including Theodor Ebert's, in the volume resulting from a September 1967 conference organized by the Vereinigung Deutscher Wissenschaftler, Tagungsbericht: Civilian Defence -- Gewaltloser Widerstand als Form der Verteidigungspolitik, Bertelsmann Universitätsverlag, Bielefeld, 1969.
- Brian Martin et al., Nonviolent Struggle and Social Defence, ed. Shelley Anderson and Janet Larmore. War Resisters' International, London, 1991.
- Adam Roberts, ed. The Strategy of Civilian Defence: Non-violent Resistance to Aggression, Faber, London, 1967. (Also published as Civilian Resistance as a National Defense, Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, USA, 1968; and, with a new Introduction on "Czechoslovakia and Civilian Defence", as Civilian Resistance as a National Defence, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, UK, and Baltimore, USA, 1969. ISBN 0-14-021080-6.
- Gene Sharp, Social Power and Political Freedom, Porter Sargent, Boston, 1980, pp. 195-261. ISBN 0-87558-093-9 (paperback); and Civilian-based Defence: A Post-military Weapons System, Princeton University Press, 1990. ISBN 0-691-07809-2.
- Heinz Vetschera, Soziale Verteidigung, Ziviler Widerstand, Immerwährende Neutralität, Wilhelm Braumüller, Vienna, 1978. ISBN 3-7003-0186-3.
- For example, Anders Boserup and Andy Mack, War Without Weapons: Non-violence in National Defence, Frances Pinter, London, 1974. ISBN 0-903804-03-4 (paperback).
- A Global Security System: An Alternative to War http://worldbeyondwar.org/executive-summary-global-security-system-alternative-war/
- Atkeson, Edward B. The Relevance of Civilian Based Defense to US Security Interests. 19 January 1976. http://www.dtic.mil/docs/citations/ADA020178
- Gene Sharp, Making Europe Unconquerable: the Potential of Civilian-based Deterrence and Defense, Ballinger Publishing Co. 1985, pp. 2–3. See also Civilian-based Defense, Spring/Summer 1994, p. 1, at https://sites.google.com/site/civilianbaseddefense/
- Sharp, Gene (with the assistance of Bruce Jenkins) (1990). Civilian-based Defense: a post-military weapons system. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 6. ISBN 0-691-07809-2. Retrieved November 9, 2011.
- Adam Roberts, "Civilian Defence Strategy," in Civilian Resistance as a National Defence: Non-violent Action against Aggression, Penguin Books, 1969
- Serge Mongeau, "La defense civile non-violente," in Serge Mongeau (editor), Pour un pays sans armée. Les Éditions Écosociété, 1993, pp. 47–57.
- See Johan Jørgen Holst, (former defense minister of Norway), Civilian-Based Defense in a New Era, Albert Einstein Institution, (Monograph Series, number 2), p. 14.
- Stephen King-Hall, Defence in the Nuclear Age, Gollancz, London, 1959, pp. 145–7 & 190.
- Brigadier General Edward B. Atkeson, “The Relevance of Civilian-Based Defense to US Security Interests” (2 parts), Part 2, p. 50. Military Review, June 1976, https://books.google.com/books?id=d7xFqohDcJMC&pg=PA45&lpg=PA45&dq=%22EDWARD+B.+ATKESON%22+%22the+relevance+of+CIVILIAN-BASED+DEFENSE+to+U.S.+security+interests%22&source=bl&ots=08lYWkfUxz&sig=ACfU3U1cjoLlxPGOmcccC-NZzNnSNvcGiQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjMsrTKpu7qAhUCVd8KHUDND0UQ6AEwAnoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=%22EDWARD%20B.%20ATKESON%22%20%22the%20relevance%20of%20CIVILIAN-BASED%20DEFENSE%20to%20U.S.%20security%20interests%22&f=false
- Defence Without the Bomb: The Report of the Alternative Defence Commission, Taylor and Francis, London, 1983. ISBN 0-85066-240-0.
- Michael Randell, Civil Resistance, 1993, pp. 161-162, https://civilresistance.info/sites/default/files/Civil%20Resistance%20-%20Randle1994.pdf
- For a short summary of developments, including in the Baltic states immediately after the end of the Cold War, see Michael Randle, Civil ResistanceCivil Resistance, Fontana, London, 1994, pp. 129–30. ISBN 0-586-09291-9.
- Maria J. Stephan Keynote Address: Nonviolent Options and Just Peace, University of San Diego Conference: The Catholic Church Moves Towards Nonviolence? Just Peace Just War in Dialogue; October 6, 2017, p. 8.
- Adam Roberts, Introduction, in Adam Roberts and Timothy Garton Ash (eds.), Civil Resistance and Power Politics: The Experience of Non-violent Action from Gandhi to the Present, Oxford University Press, 2009, pp. 10-12. ISBN 978-0-19-955201-6. 
- Civilian-Based Defense: A Short History of a Nonviolent Alternative to War, by Philip Bogdonoff. https://northernagrarianarchive.wordpress.com/2008/06/12/a-nonviolent-alternative-to-war-by-philip-bogdonoff/. Originally published in CIVILIAN BASED DEFENSE: NEWS OPINION, NOV. 1982, pp. 3-5, with the following endnote: “This article is based primarily on two unpublished papers; “Civilian Defense: Development of the Concept” (1974) by Lennart Bergfeldt, Department of Peace and Conflict Research, University of Uppsala, Sweden; and ”Nonviolent Common Defense: the Biography of an Idea,” chapter 2 from Gene Keyes, “Strategic Nonviolent Defense in Theory; Denmark in Practice” (dissertation, York University, Canada, 1978.) I am indebted to their work.”
- Nagler, Michael (1 August 2007). "Civilian-Based Defense". Metta Center.
- Social Defence, Jørgen Johansen and Brian Martin, Irene Publishing: 2019. www.irenepublishing.com. Free download at https://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/19sd/19sd.pdf.archive url=http://web. archive.org/web/*/https://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/19sd/19sd.pdf.
- Albert Einstein Institution - Organization which promotes civilian-based defense and offers free downloads of books on the topic
- Paul Emile Anders' civilian-based defense website - Compiled by a former executive director of the Civilian-based Defense Association
- The Resource Library of the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict The library has many studies available for free download.