Nonviolent Vermont Independence By Thomas Naylor One of the questions I'm asked most often is, “How would the United States respond to an attempt by Vermont to secede from the Union?” Would the United States send troops to Vermont? Maybe, maybe not. Why would anyone want to invade tiny Vermont? Only Wyoming has a smaller population. Vermont has no military bases, few defense contractors, virtually no strategic resources, no large cities, and no important government installations. Its only strategic resource is the aging Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. What if the Marines were to invade the Green Mountain State? Would all of the black-and-white Holsteins be destroyed or perhaps the entire sugar maple crop burned? Imagine trying to enslave freedom-loving Vermonters. Good luck! Vermont is too small, too rural, and too independent to be invaded by anyone. It is a threat to no one. Furthermore, Vermonters, not unlike the Swiss, tend to stick to their own knitting rather than poking their noses into everyone else's business. Vermont has always been that way, and it probably always will be. Vermont can learn a lot from Eastern Europe's experience with Václav Havel's idea of the “power of the powerless.” Within a matter of a few weeks in 1989, the iron-fisted communist regimes in Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, and Poland were replaced by more democratic governments, with little or no violence involved in the transition. Only Romania was a bloody exception to this rule. The 1989 election of Solidarity leader Lech Walesa was the climax of a bitter, eight-year struggle to bring down the repressive Polish communist government. It involved repeated confrontation and engagement and eventually complex negotiations. During martial law, several hundred Solidarity leaders were imprisoned for relatively short periods of time, but amazingly only a handful of Poles were actually killed. Václav Havel's so-called velvet revolution also brought down communism in Czechoslovakia nonviolently. Nonviolence is not a passive approach to conflict resolution but rather a proactive approach that goes right to the crux of power relationships. It can undermine power and authority by withdrawing the approval, support, and cooperation of those who have been dealt an injustice. It demands strength and courage and not idle pacifism. Nonviolence derives its strength from the energy buildup and very real power of powerlessness. Many American Sovietologists were surprised that the Soviet Union did not intervene militarily in Poland in the 1980s as it had done in Budapest in 1956 and Prague in 1968. But Poland had a lot of influential friends, not the least of which were the United States and Western Europe. The Soviets could have snuffed out Solidarity, but that would not have played well in London, Paris, or Washington. Vermont also has a lot of good friends in the United States, Canada, Europe, and the rest of the world. Part of Vermont's strength lies in the absurdity of its confronting the most powerful nation in the world. Vermont will attract sympathy from within the United States and abroad simply by virtue of its role as an underdog. It's David and Goliath relived! If Vermont were to submit formal articles of secession to the Secretary of State, the burden would be on the White House to decide how to respond. Congress might try to impose a trade embargo on Vermont, but it's unlikely that either Quebec or Canada would abide by it. It is not a foregone conclusion that the United States government would intervene militarily in Vermont. Nor is it obvious that Vermont would require its own separate standing army or defense capability. Costa Rica, for example, has survived since 1948 without any military force whatsoever. Conquering Vermont would be a lot like invading Liechtenstein or one of the more rural Swiss cantons. Five of the ten richest countries in the world as measured by per capita income actually have fewer people than Vermont's 620,000. They include Bermuda, the Channel Islands, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Luxembourg. Of these five countries only Luxembourg has a standing army of its own. And its army has only 900 active troops. Liechtenstein has been neutral since 1866 and has no standing army whatsoever. NATO provides for the military defense of Bermuda and Iceland, and the Channel Islands are under British military protection. If Vermont felt a need for some form of military support to protect itself from attack by the United States, it could always appeal to Canada, NATO, or the United Nations for protection. However, it is unclear why anyone would want to attack a state of so little strategic importance. States like California, New York, and Texas—which have big military bases, major defense plants, and big cities—are much more likely targets for terrorists and others bent on inflicting harm. In 1775 Ethan Allen took Fort Ticonderoga without firing a single shot. If Vermont can succeed in undermining the moral authority of the United States and convincing the rest of the world that the United States government is corrupt to the core, then it too may be able to escape from the Union without ever firing a shot. May God bless the disunited States of America.