Monday, February 28, 2011

The Lure of Revolution

By now I have had my say, and then some, about the dangers of being caught up in the tide that is cheering on the revolutions currently wracking the Middle East.

Today, someone who has a better grasp of history strikes the same cautionary note. I am talking about Harvard Professor Niall Ferguson, whose previous discussion of Obama’s handling of the crisis I have already blogged about. Link here.

Today Ferguson writes: “Time and again, Americans have hailed revolutions, only to fall strangely silent as those same revolutions proceeded to devour not only their own children but many other people’s, too. In each case the body count was in the millions.

“So as you watch revolution sweeping through the Arab world (and potentially beyond), remember these three things about non-American revolutions:

“(Only the hopelessly naive imagine that thirtysomething Google executives will emerge as the new leaders of the Arab world, aided by their social network of Facebook friends.)

“They take years to unfold. It may have seemed like glad confident morning in 1789, 1917, and 1949. Four years later it was darkness at noon.

 “They begin by challenging an existing political order, but the more violence is needed to achieve that end, the more the initiative passes to men of violence—Robespierre, Stalin, and the supremely callous Mao himself.

 “Because neighboring countries feel challenged by the revolution, internal violence is soon followed by external violence, either because the revolution is genuinely threatened by foreigners (as in the French and Russian cases) or because it suits the revolutionaries to blame an external threat for domestic problems (as when China intervened in the Korean War).”

Link here.

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