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February 22nd, 2011, by Anne Applebaum

Anne Applebaum

“Each revolution must be assessed in its own context, each had a distinctive impact. The revolutions spread from one point to another. They interacted to a limited extent. . . . The drama of each revolution unfolded separately. Each had its own heroes, its own crises. Each therefore demands its own narrative.”

That could be the first paragraph from a future history of the Arab revolutions of 2011. In fact, it comes from the introduction to a book about the European revolutions of 1848. In the past few weeks, quite a lot of people -myself included- have drawn parallels between the crowds in Tunis, Benghazi, Tripoli and Cairo and the crowds in Prague and Berlin two decades ago. But there is one major difference. The street revolutions that ended communism followed similar patterns because they followed in the wake of a single political event: the abrupt withdrawal of Soviet support for the local dictator. The Arab revolutions, by contrast, are the product of multiple changes – economic, technological, demographic – and have taken on a distinctly different flavor and meaning in each country. In that sense, they resemble 1848 far more than 1989.

Though inspired very generally by the ideas of liberal nationalism and democracy, the mostly middle-class demonstrators of 1848 had, like their Arab contemporaries, different goals in different countries. In Hungary, they demanded independence from Austria’s Habsburg rulers. In what is now Germany, they aimed to unify the German-speaking peoples into a single state. In France, they wanted to overthrow the monarchy (again). In some countries, revolution led to pitched battles between ethnic groups. Others were brought to a halt by outside intervention.

Most of the 1848 rebellions failed. The Hungarians did kick the Austrians out, but only briefly. Germany failed to unite. The French created a republic that collapsed a few years later. Constitutions were written and discarded. Monarchs were toppled and restored. The historian A.J.P. Taylor called 1848 a moment when “history reached a turning point and failed to turn.”

To read the rest of the article, see it in the Washington Post, where it was published in February 21, 2011.

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One Response to “The Arab world isn’t clamoring for our help”
  1. JL Gawlik says:

    Interesting you did not hear anyone asking for help, i actually heard several yell “President Bush, we need your help! Please send it.”

    I thought that was odd because that was our previous President to the USA not the current one. Go review footage, it’s there and recorded for history.

    The French are just worried about the oil. It is really sad to see more powerful nations, and the UN pick and choose who they decide they should save while hundreds of thousands are loosing their lives because they can now view the world through 4G communications and they realized how suppressed and or poor they really are while the people who run their government live like kings.

    It is human nature to want freedom and liberties, every human has inalienable rights given to them by their creator and they should be able to govern themselves and keep their country or state’s sovereignty and be able to grow to their highest potential. That in itself would rid the world of poverty, people crave to do things for themselves not to be dependent or beholden to a person or a government but to be able to stand up and do it themselves. Sometimes they will ask for a helping hand or guidance.

    Funny how the British were ran out by the Rebels? Why are some countries able to talk and work with the rebels? It is human nature not to want to live under tyranny. People crave freedom and liberty.

    The Arab League did ask for the USA’s help. They did it behind closed doors then publicly.

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