Revolutions generally start out full of hope. When regular people successfully throw off the yoke of oppressive, brutal tyranny, they naturally hope for a new order that will give them better, freer, more prosperous lives.
A review of some of the most important revolutions of the past 250 years or so shows a very mixed record in terms of this hope panning out.
On the positive side of the ledger: the American revolution of the late 18th century and the Eastern European revolutions of 1989 generated genuine and enduring freedom from dictatorship. On the negative side of the ledger: the French revolution of the late 18th century, the Russian revolution of the early 20th, and the Iranian revolution of 1979 ended in terror, destruction, and ever-greater tyranny.
The Middle East is newly aflame this week. The Egyptian military is tightening its control. The Muslim Brotherhood announced the formation of a formal political party with which it intends to control and influence events. Protesters in Bahrain have taken over the main square in their capital city. Fear seems to have dissipated in Yemen and Algeria, as demonstrations there have grown in number and in size. Protesters continue to take to the streets in Libya and Jordan. And in Iran, thousands of demonstrators came out in Tehran, despite prohibitions from the government, which authorized the use of force against the people. So far, official word is that two have died, and scores have been injured.
Sometimes revolts end in authentic and irreversible freedom. More often than not, however, they end in terror, death, and new kinds of wickedness.
The jury is still out on which way the Middle Eastern revolts will go, but the track record in this part of the world is not encouraging. In fact, the only Arab democracy is the one built by the United States in Iraq. I hope I’m wrong. I hope true freedom and human rights flower in the sands there. But color me skeptical: the region is pulled between strongmen and Islam. This tells me none of this is going to end well.
Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst.
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