So the crucial point to keep in mind, as events in Egypt unfold, is that even in the best-case scenario -- Mubarak falls without further violence and is replaced by a seemingly stable, democratic, secular government -- the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 may still just be getting started. Its crucial moments may lie months, or even years, in the future. It is after Mubarak's fall that American support for Egypt's democratic forces will be most important. And the last thing anyone should do, if Egypt appears to complete a revolution this year that looks like 1688, is to breathe a sigh of relief. At the end of 2011, Mohamed ElBaradei may well be president of a democratic Egypt. But then, at the end of 1789, Louis XVI was still King of France.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
1688 or 1789?
David Bell compares the events in Egypt to the French Revolution. His main point is that one can't easily predict the course of an extended revolutionary process from the character of its early stages. The point is well taken, and David deserves credit for sticking his neck out: most historians shy away from this sort of comparison (another exception is Simon Schama). David observes: