The Revolutionary’s Dilemma

Picked up a copy of the IHT’s Magazine while I was passing through Germany on the way back stateside. Had a fascinating set of essays from some very interesting people about power, politics, and passion–basically, what the hell is going on with these kids these days, tearing down governments, I don’t know, in my day we just had a barn dance and called it a night.

Felt some of the more thought-provoking pieces, on Burma’s continuing decades-long struggle and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular, raised a very important question about modern revolutions–and, by implication, most modern wars.

For The Faster Times:

The International Herald Tribune Magazine chose to mark the world’s passage into yet another lap around the sun this month with a collection of meditations, from brief to ponderous, on the intersection of politics, passion, and power. Many took the chance to comment on the revolutions that seem to have swept the planet while it was staggering out the current circuit. Many rehashed the same question that’s been asked since the old Tunisian regime first began to look wobbly: what the hell made this time different?

Popular unrest is hardly a new thing. Only two and a half years ago Iran came closer to a complete regime change than it has since 1979, when it actually didgo through one. Two years before that the people of Burma/Myanmar launched a non-violent resistance movement remarkable for its breadth, its resilience in the face of brutal crackdown, and its ultimate failure. The Tamil Tigers waged an insurrection against the Sri Lankan government for decades, veering wildly between guerilla warfare, democratic participation, and outright terrorism, until they were literally pummeled into a bloody smear across the earth by an artillery siege in 2009.

Yet after years of failed revolutions, and with some early speculation that the era of catastrophic regime change might be done and gone, a bloody wash of them suddenly spilled across the Middle East like so much Red Dye No. 5. The Arab Spring seems to have changed not only the playbook (replacing Molotovs, secret codes, and sharp rocks with Twitter, Facebook, and cell phone cameras as the weapons of the proletariat) but the fundamental rules of the regime-change game (which were starting to look something like “Don’t Bother,”). It’s happening again, as though regimes—like ducks, sperm whales, and other natural prey to our species—occasionally become ‘in season’ and must be slaughtered en masse, at maximum velocity, before we allow them another period of respite.

Full article can be found here.

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