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Old 06-03-2011   #1
TheCurmudgeon
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Default Arab Spring vs. The Revolutions of 1848

Interesting analysis of two parallel examples of multiple revolutions - The Arab Spring and The Revolutions of 1848:

Quote:
Though inspired very generally by the ideas of liberal nationalism and democracy, the mostly middle-class demonstrators of 1848 had, like their Arab contemporaries, very different goals in different countries. In Hungary, they demanded independence from Habsburg Austria. In what is now Germany, they aimed to unify the German-speaking peoples into a single state. In France, they wanted to overthrow the monarchy (again). In some countries, revolution led to pitched battles between different ethnic groups. Others were brought to a halt by outside intervention
http://www.slate.com/id/2285696/

It is worth noting that the instability that was "initiated" with the revolutions of 1848 did not stabilze until nearly 100 years and two world wars latter.
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Old 06-03-2011   #2
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Default Why shoul the two go hand in hand?

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Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
It is worth noting that the instability that was "initiated" with the revolutions of 1848 did not stabilze until nearly 100 years and two world wars latter.
Revolutions revolve around mobilization power. Governement is about organizational skills. Why should the two go hand in hand?

Revolutions aim at de-stabilizing the existing order. Stabilizing requires an alternative that is acceptible to a large majority of the population. Why should the two go hand in hand?

Rule of thumb: the more unpopular a regime, the easier to de-stabilize it by mobilizing against it; BUT, the more difficult to find a broadly acceptible alternative.
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Old 06-03-2011   #3
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Revolutions aim at de-stabilizing the existing order. Stabilizing requires an alternative that is acceptible to a large majority of the population. Why should the two go hand in hand?
I would disagree ... at least in this case. The Revolutions of 1848 were a series of revolutions in adjacent or closely related countries. The revolutions were fueled, in part, by a drive to change the existing political systems from absolute monarchies to more democratic systems. The parallels are, at least, thought provoking.

There were other players with other interests and results varied from country to country but the ideas that were the spark for many of the revolutions ultimately changed the political face of Europe.
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Old 06-03-2011   #4
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One may find closer parallels in the Arab Revolt of 1916-18, in its push for nationalism as the Ottoman Empire collapsed (What was found instead was European Colonialism in a newly divided region, primarily between France and England, as the US demurred to participate. Ironically the British justified this neo-colonialism under the name of Wilson's "self-determination," that these new states were not yet ready to rule themselves and needed a little friendly mentoring.

Also the Arab revolt of 1936-39 in Palestine against this same British rule, aggravated by increased immigration of Jews escaping Hitler's brewing holocost in Europe.

Today too these populaces push against national governments that have come to act with impunity toward their own populaces, and also against widely held perceptions of inaproprirate degrees of external influence over those governments by a US that largely supplanted Great Britain as the most hated nation in the Middle East as we we exerted our post-WWII influence over the governments of the region and recognized the fleldgling state of Israel.

The west relies too heavily on the sea lanes and oil of this region to truly allow these populaces, this land, these governments to find their own way forward. Perhaps this time they find the success that has eluded them for centuries. (Granted such "success", as found in Iran, can still suck for the average guy, but at least it is there own suck and they don't blame the West for their current sitation).
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Old 06-04-2011   #5
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Default not that ealry

There was one other parallel I was going to try to draw, and that was an economic one. It would be a parallel between the European powers and the influx of money from colonialism and the Arab nations and the influx of money from oil. If this parallel is relevant than it would distinguish this period from earlier (pre-1970's) revolutionary periods.
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Old 06-04-2011   #6
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The wealth issue is interesting. I suspect there has never been a domineering power who has transferred the wealth of their people out to the governments and people they exercise dominion over like the US has. This is probably going to prove to be the fatal flaw of the American system.

Enriching the leaders of Arab nations in the way we have has certainly contributed to the discontent behind current events as well. Certainly the British model of paying pennies on the pound for Iranian oil; and forcing opium as currency upon the Chinese is no better for creating stability, but it kept British capital in Britain.
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Old 06-04-2011   #7
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Default Locus of Legitimacy

In making the comparison I am working though an argument for a idea I call the "locus of legitimacy". The locus of legitimacy, or lol if you prefer, is what concept a population sees the source of legitimacy. There are only two; the collective or communal group and the individual citizen. A government like a monarchy or other autocracy would have a communal locus of legitimacy where the people subordinate their individual wants and desires to the wants and desires of the entire group. Naked nationalism would be a good example of communal locus of legitimacy. The individual locus of legitimacy is demonstrated in real, functioning democracies and republics.

As societies prosper they transition from communal to individual, but this is not an easy process. It strikes at the heart of the values of what a society sees as right and wrong. Therefore the period of transition is filled with instability. Thailand today would be such a society. I would argue that this transition is just beginning in the Arab world. If so, and if European history is any indication of how this is likely to proceed, it is going to be a rough ride.
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Old 06-04-2011   #8
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Speaking of Thailand, Josh Kurlantzick has written a couple of excellent articles on Thailand's failed democratic transition here and here:

Bangkok on the Nile.
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Old 06-26-2011   #9
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Default sorry to come late in the debate.

I would just make a very culturally French centric comment:
1848 revolutions are the off shoot of 1789 revolution and Napoleonian wars. Napoleon did spread 2 things all over Europ: Republic (the end of absolute Monrachy) and Nation.
To come back to Slate article, Germany was aiming to build a Nation. And did through Bismark not too long later.
France was aiming to establish a Republic against the will of neigbouring Kings and Queens of the time. Took longer cause we had a second empire in the middle of the process but reached the objective almost at the same time than Germany. (Unexpected, un forseen consequence of Bismark Germany unification?)

I am not sure than out of the domino effect their are so many parralleles between 1848 and the actual Arab Spring.
But I might be wrong.
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Old 07-12-2011   #10
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Default More research

the Article is good but, as you note, there is not enough there to make a good comparison. Just received 1848, Year of Revolution by Mike Rapport. So far he takes a shorter view of history than I would like, mimicking your comments that Napoleon sowed the seed of republic throughout Europe. I suppose the same could be argued about WWII and the countries involved today, but that would be a stretch.

I will let you know what else I find.
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Old 08-03-2011   #11
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Arab Spring arrives in Israel??

http://english.aljazeera.net/program...836750831.html


There is probably no country in the Middle East that does not possess suppressed Conditions of Insurgency great enough to cause massive popular action. This is not an Arab affiction, it is a human one, and governments everywhere would we well served to not merely take note, but also to take a hard look at old policies and seek meaningful reforms before they lose control of the situation.
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Old 08-03-2011   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheCurmudgeon View Post
the Article is good but, as you note, there is not enough there to make a good comparison. Just received 1848, Year of Revolution by Mike Rapport. So far he takes a shorter view of history than I would like, mimicking your comments that Napoleon sowed the seed of republic throughout Europe. I suppose the same could be argued about WWII and the countries involved today, but that would be a stretch.

I will let you know what else I find.
World War I might be a better starting point for such a comparison, actually.
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Old 08-03-2011   #13
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World War I might be a better starting point for such a comparison, actually.
Actually, the best, most recent comparison to Arab Spring is arguably the rising up of Eastern European populaces to challenge governments shaped for them by the Soviet Union.

Arab Spring may well mark the true end of the Cold War. The fall of the Berlin Wall, etc signifying the collapse of the Soviet network of controls. And now these unfolding events signifying the end of the system of controls established and nurtured by the US to Contain that Soviet threat.

Both events were set in motion by emerging information technologies that informed, empowered and emboldend populaces to act out to regain control of their own politcial destinies.
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"The modern COIN mindset is when one arrogantly goes to some foreign land and attempts to make those who live there a lesser version of one's self. The FID mindset is when one humbly goes to some foreign land and seeks first to understand, and then to help in some small way for those who live there to be the best version of their own self." Colonel Robert C. Jones, US Army Special Forces (Retired)
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Old 08-03-2011   #14
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Curmuggeon,

I think it could be worse looking at the arab spring as an off shoot of the Sudan split if you want to go in the direction of a parrallele with 1848 revolutions.

The parrallele could be the 1789 revolution and south sudan revolution/liberation war which generates a bloow of contestation in the arab world. I am not sure we completely understood how much this has affected the arab world mass subconscient. My point being, since the end of ottoman empire, this was the first split in arab countries.
But I might give it too much of importance.

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Old 08-03-2011   #15
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Default Wrong Views on the Collapse of the USSR

I recommend picking up the latest Foreign Policy magazine (JUL/AUG), on the cover "Everything You Think You Know About the Collapse of the Soviet Union is Wrong and Why it Matters in Today's Revolutionary Times."

Articles are thought provoking, and there is another series of articles that challenge the overly simplistic view that failed States are a threat to our national interests, which is well worth the read.

I suspect most serious readers of SWJ read the letters sections, but definitely read the letters to the Editor in this issue. The previous issue of Foreign Policy had authors who argued that the Arab Spring Revolt was over food (which may have been a contributing factor, but I think a minor one), but numerous experts responded challenging those arguments. It was more about individual dignity and pride, and a large number of college graduates that had no means to get ahead due to government policies, etc.

I clearly see a trend in U.S. thought if we just focus on the economy these underlying issues will fix themselves, which is why we, foolheartedly in my opinion, put so much effort into development when addressing security issues. Development plays a role at the right time, but can be very dangerous if used (even unintentionally) to further strengthen the powers that are causing the dissent to begin with.
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