Saturday, 16 February 2013

Aftermath of revolution

Was wondering recently about the outcomes of revolutions.  Considering that the so-called "Arab Spring" has not so far led to Jeffersonian Democracy, but chaos -- Libya, Syria (ongoing), Tunisia (new chaos) -- or new incipient demagogues (Egypt).  China had its revolution, and while the outcome, positive or negative is arguable, I'd say it was in the negative overall, especially in the forty long years 1940-1980.
On the Arab uprisings, the bloggosphere -- eg, the likes of Ibrahim, Spencer, Pipes -- has been more correct than the mainstream media (MSM), in predicting the outcome.
Or, "at least so far", the optimists in the MSM would say.  Look the the American Revolution, the French. Both were chaotic for decades, even centuries, before they proved their worth.  Give the "Arab Spring" more time, their argument goes.
In a recent post on Crooked Timber, "Does anyone ever get the revolution they asked for?" there's a long discussion of this issue, with not much definitive conclusion, as I read it....  If anything, the answer of these left-of-centre commenters is rather that the answer to the question is "no"; though less certain if that's to the upside or downside.
In an article in the International Herald Tribune yesterday, "Aftermath of revolution" [paywalled] by Michael Albertus and Victory Menaldo, there's the following:
Since the end of World War II, there have been roughly 50 major revolutions that have either toppled autocratic regimes or led to significant political reform in "flawed" democracies.  For those revolutions that have occurred under dictatorships, only about a third have resulted in transitions to democracy. [My emphasis]
Still, they end with an optimistic forecast....
As with all revolutions, to remain on a trajectory toward democracy requires continued popular pressure an all those with the capacity to hijack democratic aspirations.  This suggests that street protests in these countries are far from over.  In the long term, this instability may pay off in the form of democracy.
Or may not..... I'm not so sure, meself.  In the case of the Arab uprisings, there's the extra issue of religion: the new dictatorships are going to be Islamic, as the bloggosphere has consistently and -- so far -- correctly predicted.  These, for what one sees from the history of the Islamic theocracies, are robust, and long-lasting.  Too bad for their peoples and their non-Muslim minorities.