I have been doing a bit of research the past month or so on the French Revolution. In the past I spent far more time on Napoleon and his wars, and I really did not care much to study the Jacobins and the Reign of Terror. I took a class in war and revolution back in college and we read Bacon and Paine and discussed the role of revolution in a general way, but this is the first time in 30 years I really have studied the period.
I have a half formulated post spinning in my brain relating the French Revolution and its extremes to today's world, but nothing coherent has yet found its way to virtual paper. I am not about to begin that essay now, so hold off on letting those eyes glaze over.
It is interesting to compare some of the rhetoric spouted by The Obama and his minions to that of the various French Revolutionaries. Did you know that at the height of the Reign of Terror it was fashionable to be dirty, smelly and sporting rags for clothes? You see, the basis for the Revolution was equality. Appearing in nice clothes, or washed, meant you were trying to be better than the average street dweller. Since the Revolution's roots were the hunger protests of the poor, the homeless and the residents of the slums, no one dared affect the look of the "Aristos". Somehow, the idea of equal opportunity espoused in the American Revolution was perverted to "equal outcome" by the French. Does that position sound familiar?
Some experts are amazed at the rapidity of Revolution in Tunisia and Egypt. History shows the people can overthrow a government in very little time. We have many examples beyond the French. Look at the rapid fall of the Communist Bloc and the Berlin Wall. Unless a regime is prepared to brutally suppress the revolt, the mass of the people can fast overwhelm any government. A hesitant military will allow the people to overcome the police and law enforcement. It is interesting to note the police in most revolutions side with the regime in power. The linchpin is always the military. Will soldiers fire upon their fellow citizens?
In 1956 Hungary, it was not the Hungarian Army that put down the revolt. It was the Soviets. Foreign armies of occupation are far more willing to shoot would-be revolutionaries and suppress rebellion. It has been reported China brought in troops from the distant provinces to put down the Tienanmen Square revolt, afraid troops from Beijing would hesitate.
In Egypt, the police have tried to suppress the protests. The key is the role the military will take. Remember, it is the military that really controls Egypt. In any case, a change in regime can not bode well for our relations with Egypt. Israel will find a far more Islamist state next door than previously. These events can not be positive for oil prices, for regional stability, for the War on Terror.
We should not be surprised when similar events occur across the Middle East in the coming months. Oppression, poverty and a vast difference in the standard of living between the ruling class and the people will in the end precipitate a revolution. The rise of the people will be fast and furious. And little good will come of it. Rage is never a good formula for governance.