UPDATE II: ‘Un-American Revolutions’ (Un-American America)

America,Democracy,Founding Fathers,History,Islam,Liberty,Middle East,Nationhood,Political Philosophy


Having grown up in the Middle East, and lived through a war or two, I’m not optimistic about the outcomes of a democratic revolution in the region. I said as much in “Media’s Sickening Sentimentality On Egypt” (HERE). That’s why I mocked (in 2005) the continual comparisons Bush and his gang used to make between “the carnage in Iraq and the constitutional cramps of early America; between the feuding Mohammedans and the followers of John Locke and Baron de Montesquieu.”

Niall Ferguson, writing in Newsweek, also thinks that the slobbering will soon give way to an uneasy silence:

“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:

* 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).

To which an American might reply: yes, but was all this not true of our revolution too? …”

Read “Un-American Revolutions.”

UPDATE I (Mar. 6): Regular readers should know better than to attribute my quoting of Ferguson to an ideological affinity for his neoconservatism. Hell, Myron, as a man with a particularly critical and curious mind, don’t you get sick of tinny ideologues who mouth-off opinion without reference to the facts of history? I like deductions that cleave to facts. Ferguson is a good source of information. The article is cited for its juxtaposition of the American and The Other Revolutions. These contrasts demand Derb-worthy pessimism, not silly, happy faces. A lot of people refuse to ever cast aspersions on Thomas Jefferson’s blind spot: France. As much as I revere him, Jefferson was somewhat enamored of the “Revolution in France,” Edmund Burke’s precise, and derisive, characterization.

UPDATE II (Mar. 7): UN-AMERICAN AMERICA. Right you are Nebojsa. Vox writes: “Americans themselves do not even enjoy the democratic freedoms which their leaders are claiming to support elsewhere.” Which is exactly the point I belabored in “Frankly, My Dear Egyptians, I Don’t Give a Damn,” over a month ago:

“The ‘planners’ society’ I inhabit is ‘dominated by a bureaucratic elite.’ This unnatural elite, ‘manages its people’s principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances. … Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent.'”

“What remains of the rights to property and self-ownership in the soft tyranny that is the USA is regulated and taxed to the hilt. When they travel, Americans are routinely patted down, and irradiated with photons like meat in a packaging plant. In contravention of their naturally licit rights, many thousands of my compatriots languish in prisons for ingesting unapproved substances, or for violating information socialism laws (so-called insider trading infractions). Others are hounded by democratically elected despots for daring to form militia (as many Egyptians have recently done) in order to repel the trespassers who traipse across their homesteads on our country’s Southern border, killing their cattle and imperiling their kin.”


“More often than not, Americans who yearn for the freedoms their forbears bequeathed to them are labeled demented and dangerous. I’ve yet to hear liberty deprived peoples the world over stand-up for the tea-party patriots. When they do — I’ll gladly galvanize on their behalf.”

BASICALLY, when Egyptians and Libyans stand up for my tea-party rights, I’ll love them and their freedoms back.

10 thoughts on “UPDATE II: ‘Un-American Revolutions’ (Un-American America)

  1. Robert Glisson

    “The correct strategy—which, incidentally, John McCain would have actively pursued had he been elected in 2008—was twofold. First, we should have tried to repeat the successes of the pre-1989 period, when we practiced what we preached in Central and Eastern Europe by actively supporting those individuals and movements who aspired to replace the communist puppet regimes with democracies.” I liked the article before and after the above quote. Not that I disagree with the quote itself; but, how come this is the first time for me to hear that McCain even had a plan or policy and how can I be sure that it is even true? All I ever heard from McCain’s campaign was “More War.” The second recommendation, working on the differences in the Muslim faith, is also good, if the US (or McCain) was even willing to acknowledge that there is such a thing as Muslim Faith and Law.

  2. George Pal

    The most ardent modern romances with ‘revolution’ are by those who hate fighting but love the idea of someone having fought. They’re easy to spot, they’re the ones hawking democracy around the globe and then whistling past the graveyard.

  3. Myron Pauli

    Well, Ferguson knows history better than 99.9% of Americans but his conclusions are to adopt the “John Mc Cain policy” which is the NEOCON INSANITY that has gotten us into numerous troubles in the past. As banal as Obama is, I haven’t a scintilla of Bush Cheney McCain nostalgia.

    I reject the concept that the US should either be propping up all the Mubaraks or trying to undermine them with our CIA-anointed Karzais, Chalibis, Diems, Thieus, and other paid suckups. I fail to see how either course of action has anything to do with protecting the lives and freedom of Americans as opposed to playing “Global Messiah”. A Khadafy who threatens Libyans is THEIR problem, not my problem!

    Ferguson also fails to note that the ideas promulgated in the American Revolution was based on a long history of the rights of Englishmen, coupled with a study of previous republics and Judeo-Christian ethics. The French Revolution relied on a bunch of semi-perverted philosophes such as Rousseau. The Soviet and Maoist Revolutions relied on Marxist socialism. The fascists were ubernationalists coupling power and racism. IDEAS HAVE CONSEQUENCES. A revolution based on perverted ideology will achieve perverted consequences (usually tyranny and blood).

  4. Mike Marks

    In some ways the uprisings across the middle east make me shudder. I’m all for freedom of the individual and the right to own private property, etc. However, it appears that some elements of these uprisings are no more than Sharia Opportunists. Eastern Europe is very different from North Africa and the Middle East. At least in Eastern Europe the Judeo Christian traditions had not been completely lost. The Middle East and North Africa have deep religeous roots in Islam. Representative government and radical Islam do not work well together. There are too many infidels to kill…

  5. Myron Pauli

    Ilana, I would never accuse you (or myself) of supporting neocon interventionism even if we both agree that Ferguson’s skepticism on the Middle East “revolutions” is valid.

    You are certainly correct about Jefferson’s (and Paine’s) love for French bloodletting. Stodgy old John Adams and Edmund Burke had the proper call.

    One thing is a little misleading with Ferguson’s- the French revolutionaries and their “philosophes” were generally “educated” middle class (sons of lawyers, military officers, physicians) who decided to remake the world into 10 day weeks and other sorts of feckless silliness.

  6. CompassionateFascist

    The Middle East uprisings, whether ultimately “democratic” or not, are at a minimum anti-corporate globalist. And, as such, useful. If the world’s #4 ranking military power, Israel, feels threatened by these events….that’s too bad.

  7. Frank Brady

    I doubt, Ilana, that anyone would ever confuse you with a neoconservative. That said, it seems to me that what the U.S. should do in light of events unfolding in the Middle East and North Africa is nothing. For more than a century our interventionism has produced nothing but cries for more intervention and endless involvement in endless strife.


  8. Nebojsa Malic

    One of the things I’ve been preaching (for lack of a better word) against for some time now is the notion that a man’s ideology automatically validates/invalidates everything he says. By all means, filter stuff through the prism of one’s beliefs. Ferguson is a confessed imperialist, so when he opposed imperial adventures one ought to listen a bit more carefully than if it were a Socialist Workers World Party official. But from automatically validating or invalidating one’s words based on his ideology, it’s a steep slippery slope to “he can’t do no wrong, ’cause he one of us.” Or worse yet, “he can’t do no right, he’s one of them folk.”

  9. Stephen W. Browne

    The oft-misquoted Edmund Burke chiasmus comes to mind, “I do not rejoice to hear that men may do as they please unless I know what it pleases them to do.”

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