Jewish World Review Feb. 4, 2011 / 30 Shevat, 5771
Flood on the Nile: Of Great Events and Little Men
By Paul Greenberg
Something new is being heard along the Nile: the sound of freedom. It always comes as a surprise to
Who would have guessed it? Certainly not the distinguished diplomats who send back dispatches remarkable only for their obtuseness.
Now, caught as flat-footed as their bosses at Foggy Bottom or in the
It is an old, old story. Its plot line should be as familiar by now as a Sunday school lesson. Only the actors playing the familiar roles in this ancient pageant have changed. Little else of substance has since the author of Exodus first set it down. Now, after all these eons, the drama is played out again and the whole world, like an audience that's never seen this show before (we live in a biblically illiterate age), rubs its eyes in bewilderment and waits to see how it will come out. As if the ending will somehow be different this time.
The course of modern revolutions is scarcely something new and unpredictable. We've seen this movie before, and it's a B-grade biblical epic out of
Somebody really should give every member of our diplomatic corps a copy of Crane Brinton's "Anatomy of a Revolution" -- if one can still be found in the rare history department that has not forsaken great history for substitutes like gender studies, number-crunching and miniaturized monographs. Professor Brinton, one of the good things to come out of
The disease called Revolution occurs as a series of successive shocks from right to left, from modest reform to the usual Reign of Terror, till a breaking point is reached (Thermidor) and chaos gives birth to its favorite child, tyranny. As surely as the French Revolution led to a Bonaparte with his imperial ways and ego. And as certain as hubris leads to downfall. The Greeks, like the Hebrews, knew all about that, or maybe just enough to ignore the familiar signs till it was too late. And only then realize why the mighty had fallen. And that pride goeth before the fall.
To put the old lesson in Professor Brinton's more academic style, the process moves from "financial breakdown (to) organization of the discontented to remedy this breakdown (to) revolutionary demands on the part of these organized discontented (to) demands which if granted would mean the virtual abdication of those governing (to) attempted use of force by the government, its failure, and the attainment of power by the revolutionists. These revolutionists have hitherto been acting as an organized and nearly unanimous group, but with the attainment of power it is clear that they are not united. The group which dominates these first stages we call the moderates (as) power passes by violent … methods from Right to Left."
Still, at this early stage of the disease in
For the moment there is something new under the Egyptian sun. What's new is that the fabled
Even now ambitious pols are rushing to the forefront of a revolution they neither started nor may be able to stop. The ever-mobile Mohammed ElBaradei, for slick example. Meanwhile, the fanatics lurk in the shadows, like Bolsheviks in 1917 or the Muslim Brotherhood now, waiting for their opportunity to strike.
As for the president of
He sounds less like a president than another essentially meaningless secretary of state, a
Whatever policy American leaders settle on, it should always contain at least a grain of boldness, of candor, of the frontier spirit. And there should never, never be any question but that America is still the land of the free and the home of the brave -- not of the fearful and obsequious waiting to see which horse has the inside track before putting down our bet. We seem to live in a time of great events, as always, but of small leaders.
What then should the president have said instead of his timorous, ever-so-balanced, perfectly vapid remarks? What should he still say? For it is not too late yet. He need make only a few observations -- concise, direct, heartening and to the point:
• America is and always will be on the side of liberty in the world; it is our calling, and we will be true to it.
• Liberty, as represented by first our Declaration of Independence and then our Constitution, must be an ordered liberty if it is to prove durable. Disorder is the death of liberty, not its birth. If the crowds in
• In the end only Egyptians can free
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