The Corner

Along the Nile, It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again

I hate to quote that old monster Marx, but his famous aphorism about history repeating itself, the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce, is a depressing reality. As usual, the second-rate intellect was ripping off his betters (in this case Hegel, who has a lot to answer for), so the observation about historical repetition wasn’t even original. Anyway, when you look at the course of revolution in the modern era, it’s always the same-old same-old:

  • Czar Nicky — Kerensky — Lenin

  • Kaiser Willie — Weimar Republic — Hitler

  • Shah Pahlavi — Mr. Bani Sadr — Khomeini

Heck, we can even take it one step further:

  • Gorbachev — Yeltsin — Putin

In other words, no matter the high intentions and democratic slogans, it always turns out badly in the end, especially in countries with, shall we say, a natural affinity for despotism.

The rebellions sweeping across North Africa and into Jordan may in fact be the stuff of the neocon/Bushian fantasy that all peoples everywhere yearn to be free and that the answer to “Islam is the answer” is Jacksonian democracy. But color me skeptical. Perhaps W.’s policies in Iraq started the winds of change blowing in the Middle East, but aren’t the beneficiaries more likely to be the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist radicals? They have waited and prepared for this moment for decades. Never strong enough by themselves to overthrow an autocrat willing to use blunt force, they needed the social disruption caused by rising food prices, political corruption, an army of unemployed young people, and general misery in order to exploit the “legitimate grievances” of the masses.

By the way, does the Obama administration’s use of that historically resonant catchphrase bother anyone besides me?

Pace Marx, maybe “farce” isn’t the right word.

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