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1848 in North Africa?

February 23, 2011 16:00:00.000

The recent trend of uprisings across North Africa makes me think of history - 1848, specifically. I read a book on that subject awhile ago (1848: Year of Revolution). The upshot for me is that I'm cautiously pessimistic about the way things may play out. In 1848, there were revolutions across Europe - largely led by the rising young generation. However, the forces of counter-revolution prevailed nearly everywhere. The only "win" for the revolutionaries was in France, and the reason for the quotes is that the "win" led directly to the reign of Emperor Napolean III - hardly a victory for those who desired a second republic.

Carrying that back to North Africa and the Middle East, here's why I'm skeptical: there's no history of consensual government in those areas. The forces of moderation there - like those in Europe in 1848 - are, as I see it, likely to be swallowed up by forces promising stability. Who that will end up being is anyone's guess - it could be a return to power by the forces who mostly wield power now, or - as in France with Napolean III - it could be some "popular choice" that institutes a new status quo. In any event, I'd bet against the rise of liberal democracies...

posted by James Robertson

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