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Posts Tagged ‘Revolution’

Is it 1848?

In 1848, Europe was rocked by a domino-like string of revolutions and revolutionary movements in France, Germany, the Austro Hungarian Empire, Italy, and elsewhere.  What came of it?  A few regime changes, but mostly failure and repression.  Not much that was terribly memorable, in truth.  Far more important were the nationalist upheavals of the latter part of the century, in Italy and Germany in particular, which really gave force to the nationalist idea in Europe and created a useful outlet for the frustrations and anomie of industrialism and urbanization. 

We see something like this today in the Arab World.  First Iran and Tunisia.  Then Egypt.  Today, Bahrain and possibly Saudi Arabia.  But what of it?  These revolutions, like those of Europe in 1848, have vague grievances and even vaguer proposals.  I’m astonished at how little that is clear and intelligent the would-be revolutionaries have to say about what’s wrong with the status quo, how they intend to fix things, and why their projects won’t implode.  It is much like 1848 in this respect.  By contrast, the French Revolution of 1789 and the American War of Independecne and the liberal and nationalist anti-Soviet revolts of 1989 were crystal clear in motive, aim, and technique.  Indeed, the clearly wrong ideals of France have much to do with its self-destruction and replacement by alternating depositims and half-stable republics until 1945, while the clear and basically sensible ideas of America and the pro-American regimes of the former Warsaw Pact have much to do with both regions’ relative stability and prosperity through the present.

Of course today, as in 1848, a certain type of romantic sensibility sees the barricades and simply wants to cheer and relive the faded and half-understood events of yesteryear.  As a conservative, I’m instinctually cautious.  While I have no particular love for Mubarak or anyone else in the Arab World, I cannot help but remember what is already forgotten:  this is a land of half-baked ideas (i.e., Ba’athism, Nasserism), corrupt and charismatic rulers, and a religion that extinguishes nearly every instinct needed for effective self-government.

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More on Egypt

Why do we assume these protesters represent a majority of Egyptians?  If several hundred thousand Americans called for Obama’s resignation–as they have at a great many public events–no one calls for the President’s ouster.   But here we do, even though we know these primitive tribal people can be whipped into a frenzy on the basis of rumors and the most blatant propaganda and, furthermore, we have no reason to have any confidence what percentage of the Egyptian people they represent.

Why is our President so tergiversatious.  One minute he’s for Mubarak. Then the protesters.  Then the process.  Doesn’t his own ideology of pro-Third World nationalism counsel him the best thing to do is shut up? Indeed, in this instance, his instinctually anti-imperialist views accord with my own ethnocentrically-based anti-imperisalist and anti-interventionist views.  But it appears, as is often the case in his contradictions, that his ego is the trump card.

The media has concluded “Mubarak must go!”  Why believe them?  Musharraf stepped down in Pakistan, and the place is still a mess.  Little people-power revolutions occurred with great fanfare in Lebanon and Iran with mixed effects.  The former led to Hezbollah’s greater political power, but Lebanon, for various cultural reasons, is still a halfway decent place to visit.  Iran, by contrast, shut them down, as Mubarak seems resolved to do, and there the silent (or easily cowed) majority has accepted the legitimacy of this turn of events.

The worst case scenario of this situation in Egypt to me is as follows. One, US military traffic in the Suez Canal is not permitted.  And, two, out of misguided “outreach” and “idealism,” a Muslim Brotherhood dominated regime continues to receive billions of US Aid each year as ransom for not attacking Israel (as opposed to being a quasi-ally, as it has been for the last 30 years).

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I know almost nothing about the events in Burma.  It appears like your basic poorly governed third world country that the people have had enough of.  There is talk of a military coup.  What I do know is that we tend to get all-too-hopeful in these times, as if the military regimes do not have supporters, clients, and, at a minimum, the ability to govern and keep order.  From Ukraine to Lebanon, recent popular revolts and their results have been disappointing after Geroge Soros and Andrew Sullivan have shifted their attention to other issues.

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