It's not often that I agree with Christopher Hitchens, but his eloquent treatise on the spate of Muslim civilian rebellions in the Near East struck a responsive chord in me. I have long believed, and history is replete with illustrations, that many revolutions are usually an exercise that replaces one form of tyranny with another that is even worse. From Vanity Fair:
For some reason Hitch does not bother to compare these events with the greatest revolution in modern history - the American Revolution. But Hitch goes on to stroke his ego by relating some of the changes in governments that he has witnessed, the key phrase being "witnessed," not "participated":
Surveying the seismic-looking events in Tunis and Cairo in January and February of this year, various observers immediately began by comparing them to discrepant precedents. Was this the fall of the Arab world’s Berlin Wall? Or was it, perhaps, more like the “people power” movements in Asia in the mid-1980s? The example of Latin America, with its overdue but rapid escape from military rule in the past decades, was also mentioned. Those with longer memories had fond recollections of the bloodless “red carnation” revolution in Portugal, in 1974: a beautiful fiesta of democracy which also helped to inaugurate Spain’s emancipation from four decades in the shadow of General Franco.
but you have to slog through several more paragraphs before you get to the point that he really wants to make:
"I was a small-time eyewitness to those “bliss was it in that dawn” episodes, having been in Lisbon in 1974, South Korea in 1985, Czechoslovakia in 1988, Hungary and Romania in 1989, and Chile and Poland and Spain at various points along the transition. I also watched some of the early stages of the historic eruption in South Africa."
Hitch misses the boat completely. He looks for a political party to take the reins of government, but a political party is based on the premise that government should be organized in a manner that conforms to a particular philosophy. There are no real competing philosophies in these countries. There is Islam and facism (the statist Baath parties). Both control their populations through cohersion.
Not a single one of these pregnant conditions, or preconditions, exists in Egypt. Neither in exile nor in the country itself is there anybody who even faintly resembles a genuine opposition leader. With the partial exception of the obsessively cited Muslim Brotherhood, the vestigial political parties are emaciated hulks. The strongest single force in the state and the society—the army—is a bloated institution heavily invested in the status quo. As was once said of Prussia, Egypt is not a country that has an army, but an army that has a country. More depressing still, even if there existed a competent alternative government, it is near impossible to imagine what its program might be.
Hitch does not mention the Grand Revolution that spawned one of the greatest nations on the face of the earth. The nations of the Near East and North Africa, save for Israel, lack a common custom of self rule. As English colonists, the Founding Fathers had a centuries old tradition in the elements of constitutional safe guards for individual freedoms and self-government through the Magna Carta (1215) and the English Parliament (1265).
The Protestant Reformation brought about the Rule of Law over the Rule of Kings (see Rutherford's Lex, Rex) and the limitations on absolutism as practiced by many English kings. There was never a Muslim Reformation. There is only Allah and ten thousand imams declaring what is or isn't haram.
The Muslims have Sharia Law which has remained basically unchanged since the 8th Century. Western influence has moderated one school of Sharia (Hanifi) but the other three primary schools are regressive and oppressive religious constructs. There are no self-rule legacies for Muslims.
In the former British Empire there is Magna Carta. In America there is the Declaration of Independence. There is the Constitution - one of the most magnificent documents ever crafted by the hand of Man. The USA is the oldest government on the face of the planet. No other government existing in 1787 is still existent today and it is a tribute to these men that we have such a stable form of government where succession is achieved through the ballot rather than the bullet.
In Muslim countries there is Koran and the sword. There were the Caliphates: the Umayyad followed by the Abbasid, the Fatimid, and finally the Ottoman Dynasty which slaughtered 1.5 million Armenians. The Caliphs (literally "successor") ruled the Ummah (Muslim world or community) ever since Mohammed died in 632 AD; since the end of the Caliphate in 1924 there has much controversy over how to once again select a new Caliph.
The citizens of Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen may be fearlessly enthusiastic and dedicated to the overthrow of despots, but they are so screwed and it is their own culture that condemns them.