Regime Change. Part One – How it’s done.

by Golem XIV

There’s been a lot of Regime Change around in the last few years. One might even think it had become a nasty habit: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela. These are just the most recent. It was pointed out recently that if you count just those in South and Central America since the 50’s, it’s twelve. Add in the overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran in 1953 and it seems like we can’t get enough of it. We certainly seem to think we have a right to engineer it wherever we like. But of course those who support it always insist we only do it because it ‘our duty to help the oppressed.’  So I would like to look at this peculiar form of Western benevolence.  First in general and then at a hypothetical case – Regime Change in the UK.

This may seem unlikely but I think we are all so used to regime change happening far away, in the Middle East, in Africa or South America, that we have been tempted to imagine it couldn’t happen here. But I suggest it could. In fact I think if Brexit were to happen and it was followed by the election of Corbyn government intent on some quite radical changes, then we could well see regime change being played out in the UK. But before I can persuade you of that we need to be clear what regime change involves and how it’s done.

Regime Change – How to do it.

Regime Change is like asymmetric warfare but where ‘we’ in the West win! It’s fun for the whole family of three-letter agencies, secret services, special forces, private security companies and soft-power-projecting quangos and ‘endowments’.

In the past we used to have ‘ police actions’ (where you bomb the shit out of ‘them’ but don’t actually declare war), proxy wars (so messy – so difficult finding reliable help these days),  or if you’re Israel you just call it ‘a limited incursion’ and hope to be home for tea. Regime change, as a concept at least, is better and cleaner all round. No one asks ‘is it a war or isn’t it?’, because it’s Regime Change! It’s defined by the outcome rather than the means and isn’t it just so much more modern to talk about ‘outcomes’? It avoids all that ‘is it done yet?” uncertainty. It’s done when the regime has changed.  What could be clearer?  It isn’t even ‘mission critical’ what sort of mess is left behind. The regime has been changed  – ‘job done’, ‘mission accomplished’ Everyone knew what the aim was from the start, without having to have given all sorts of hideous hostages to fortune about what kind of regime the new one might be or even if it would be better than the old one. No one says anything of that sort, it’s just about hanging the regime – sorry – missed out a ‘c’ there – changing the regime… changing.

So let’s do a quick run down of what Regime Change typically involves.  This, by the way is from the Grand Daddy of Regime Change specialists’ play-book, the NED, the National Endowment for Democracy.

So, first find your regime. One you don’t like  – obviously. It’s important there be something, preferably several things about the regime that you can point to that are genuinely nasty or at least not as good as they should be and not like they are at home. This is important.  You have to be able to frame your actions as morally justified and that what you are aiming at is ‘better’.  Especially if the regime you want changed happens to be sitting on valuable resources, have markets they weren’t letting your corporations in to, or were just generally ideologically ‘dangerous and wrong’.  Having actual ‘bad stuff’ to point at is vital for keeping the whole story feeling and looking positive.

Remember much of the critical action in regime change happens at home not ‘over there’. You have to have widespread and vocal support at home. If you don’t have it home-grown opposition will drag you down into a tedious and very often dangerous discussion of facts.

However, if you have that positive story and it does its job of generating support at home, you can do what is needed over there. Regime change is about public perception at home – public outrage at home and public sanctimony and self-righteousness at home.  It’s the people at home who have to feel good, not the people over there. Over there, they can be reduced to starving, freezing and dying in endless fratricidal civil wars as long as at home people feel what they did had the virtuous intent of getting rid of a terrible regime. Even if it all goes to shit over there, people at home have to continue to feel good about themselves. They have to feel that what was done was done for the right and noble reasons even if those it was done for turned out to be too stupid or backward to be able to take advantage of what you did for them.

So, you have your regime with it’s wrong-doings and short-comings sufficient to feed to ambitious journos at both ‘respected’ and ‘alternative’ aligned media as well as to  experts of your political stripe, and think-tanks ready to lend ‘independent’ weight to your views.

That’s home dealt with for now. Let’s turn to the target regime. You must now find dissenters and if possible ‘the persecuted’.  There will always be dissenters. It’s human nature and no country is perfect – hell there are dissenters at home. We’ll talk about how to deal with them later. As for the persecuted, someone’s tribe is always being excluded from lucrative contracts.  Someones’ beliefs are always being called in to question or belittled. There will always be some racist somewhere. Someone’s rights are always being ignored. There will always be genuine bigotry and genuine hardship. You just have to find the ones that you can weaponise to your advantage.

As long as someone is being prevented from expressing some opinion – even if later they and their opinion turns out to be every bit as loathsome and brutal as those of their oppressors  – it does’t matter. For your purposes they can be portrayed as champions of free speech.

Once you have found them you must then find thinkers and organisations who will write about the noble aspect of your dissenters and your persecuted.  It can be as simple as the fact they are being persecuted. You must then fund protests. This isn’t hard. All protests need funds. The important thing is to fund them without being seen to fund them. This too isn’t difficult. There are any number of NGOs, foundations or even private donors to whom you can funnel cash, who can be relied upon to forward your largess.  You can even use organs of your own state as long as they have the right name and can claim to be disinterested champions of some noble cause – The National Endowment for Democracy is a perfect case in point. They are an organ of the US state but their very name insists that they are non–partisan, not really anything to do with US government, but are instead champions of nothing more than Democracy itself.

Next have your tame media prepped and eager to cover the protests.  If the protests are small spice them up with counter protests which are also not hard to arrange should none be forthcoming.  The same arm’s length funding will be even more necessary when funding both sides. Counter protests are of course good for injecting a little photogenic violence against your oppressed and dissenting.  Don’t agonise over this. The counter protests will voice genuine opinion held in your target country. All you are doing is encouraging its expression.

This may take a while so be patient but not idle. With careful cultivation of local leaders and their opposing hot-heads you will generate a growing feeling of unrest. Ukraine is a wonderful recent example.

Your media need to talk about the size of the protests. A large number – 60 000 for example sounds good and can look good. No one needs to mention that even a few hundred thousand in a nation of millions is hardly a majority or even a sizeable minority. This is where your experts and think-tanks come in handy. They need to seize the rhetorical initiative. They need to present your narrative and armour it in academic respectability.

A vital part of their narrative will be to parade ‘the exiled’. These need not be real exiles but if they are then so much the better. If your target hasn’t actually exiled anyone, they may for example have free speech, don’t let this discourage you. The Exiled can simply be thinkers and leaders who have chosen self-exile because of their deep sadness at what has happened to their home and their respect for your country and a desire to make their home more like yours. This will please your home support.

Once you have this ticking over be at pains to give any opposition within your own country as little space as possible.  Of course be seen to welcome free speech and debate but make sure it is actually carefully controlled. Friendly network interviewers should be cultivated to keep the debate shallow and tipped well in your favour.

To this end encourage the media outlets to describe the worst aspects of the regime you want rid of. Even relatively small-scale stuff will play well if you can find a human story of pain, loss, or just unfairness. Find the worst of their regime’s supporters. The ignorant and  violent are always around. If they aren’t awful enough find others who are and if necessary pay them.  Agents Provocateur are worth their weight in hospital bills.  In an emergency put your own  people in but remember this is a dangerous last resort which can have difficult repercussion if it goes wrong. So use locals whenever possible.

Now you need to run three ‘projects’ both in your own press and theirs. Project Fear – what apocalyptic disasters will befall them if the country is forced  to continue on its present disastrous course. Project Salvation – what will happen if they escape their present tyranny and follow a course much closer to your own common sense way of doing things. And Project Oppression – what foolishness or perhaps even outright evil is being done by the stupid, the ignorant and, dare I say it, the Deplorable,  as a result of their being manipulated by cynical, greedy and self-serving populists and extremists

A general note here. You cannot change a regime in a nation where everyone more or less is happy. Many nations think they are happy. Your job is always to find the sometimes hidden or dormant fault lines and make them active.   Find them and you can begin to whisper that someone stupid is being manipulated by someone evil.  A malevolent hidden hand is always a good story.

As your experts and exiles begin to spin out their stories and construct the narrative it is wise to prefer facts to outright lies. Of course if you do have to lie then the old maxim holds true, make sure you repeat your lie over and over and over. But facts are always safer. Just single out those facts which on their own without complicating context can be made to support your narrative, and ignore, suppressor cast doubt upon those which don’t.  This is where seizing the rhetorical initiative is important. The more your narrative is the one which frames the debate the harder it will be for you opponents to make their argument sound convincing. Control the framework and the language in which the debate takes place and you will win. Do not ever use terms coined by the opposition. Use your media outlets to force your opponents to use your terms and make them play on your field. This is how your deal with dissenters at home. Let them talk.  But keep them marginalised and make them use your terms on your media.

Back to the target country. You must gain a thorough knowledge of the organisations which support the incumbent regime. You must then create your own version of as many of them as you can. If there is a student organisation which supports the regime, create one that opposes it. If there is a women’s organisation in support of the regime create one that isn’t.  The same for any kind of NGO or charity. Even Unions can be created which are more ‘friendly’. Make sure all these organisations are better funded than the originals . The cost is a fraction of what a ‘police action’ or ‘proxy war’ would cost. Make sure they are not only better funded  but also that they have better access to your friendly media. Make sure your friendly version of every kind of NGO,and citizen;s group is the one heard back home. Put them in contact with your experts and exiles. Have them interviewed and quoted. There will be journalists, writers, politicians and activists even in the target country who see things your way, use them. Have them help your pro-change organisations to run your three projects.  If your target regime is silly enough to try to interfere with your propaganda programme portray their attempts to shut down your friendly organisations as censorship and an attack on freedom of speech. They will appear to be exactly as you have portrayed them.  It always plays well.

As all this takes shape, what had been a country with the usual differences of opinion coexisting within a general feeling of mutual respect or at lest mutual tolerance, will begin to fragment into increasingly bitter distrust. Intolerant and aggressive language will grow all on its own.

If you do all the above properly you will create a feedback loop that will turn reasoned and polite disagreement into increasingly bitter, angry and eventually sectarian, distrust and hate. A corrosive fracturing that as it takes hold will develop its own momentum and spread of its own accord. At which point other nations and their media will report what they see, a nation riven with deep divisions whose focus is the present regime. All you need to do then is apply what economic pressure you can and wait for those who have money and power to lose if it all goes badly, to come to you for advice and protection. It’s never rats who leave a sinking ship but those with the most to lose. Those at the top not those at the bottom.

So that is a quick and dirty look at how to precipitate regime change. Could it really be done in  Great Britain? I think it could. I’m not saying it will, just that there’s no reason I can think of why what we allow our leaders to do so readily to ‘others’ couldn’t be done to us, if our leaders thought it would benefit them and the system that protects their wealth and power.

In Part Two I’ll suggest why I think Britain might become a target of regime change and how the general rules would be applied to Britain if Brexit happened and a left-wing Corbyn government was elected.

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