Thursday, 3 February 2011

Egypt and Lessons from History

Here is an interesting article from the BBC's John Simpson putting the events in Egpyt into historical context. He examines other popular uprisings, such as the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the revolutions in Eastern Europe in 1989, and the events in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in the same year. Massive crowds of people gathered to make their feelings known in each case, but they weren't always successful. In Iran the Shah resisted for some time but then gave up and escaped. In Eastern Europe the communist governments lost the backing of the Soviet Union and swiftly folded, but in China Deng Xiaoping found army generals prepared to use force against the people, leading the deaths of thousands but the survival of his regime. If a leader can guarantee the support of his military and police forces there is a reasonable chance that they can hang on, but this may not be the case for Mubarak. We will have to wait and see what the outcome will be.

PS: Now that President Mubarak has been successfully removed, this article by Professor Mark Almond compares the events in Egypt with previous revolutions, including Indonesia and Ukraine, looking for particular patterns. He writes:

"What collapses a regime is when insiders turn against it. So long as police, army and senior officials think they have more to lose by revolution than by defending a regime, then even mass protests can be defied and crushed. Remember Tiananmen Square in 1989. But if insiders and the men with guns begin to question the wisdom of backing a regime - or can be bought off - then it implodes quickly."

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