In light of recent events, I am republishing the translation of an article that I originally wrote in French in February 2011.
A wind of madness has recently swept the Arab world. Intoxicated by the tidal waves that engulfed Tunisia then Egypt, whole populations are rising and trampling old autocracies.
The following domino effect spread to Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Jordan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Saudi Arabia. Countries long time muzzled by strongmen are suddenly rebelling and demanding a more democratic form of government.
But the transition from an absolute regime to a representative system is a Herculean task. I would compare this state of affairs with the situation of a homeless person who suddenly inherits millions. Penniless yesterday, millionaire today. Can this man who lived all his life in a state of extreme poverty manage his new riches?
I very much doubt it. If he has any sense, he will look for somebody “qualified” to manage his newly found fortune, and that’s where danger lurks.
I have always been wary of the extremists (fundamentalists, Islamists, communists, Trotskyists, pétainists, fascists, papists, etc.) who swarm into the murky waters of revolutions.
These unsavory characters are waiting for the opportune moment to pounce on the carcasses of deposed states and establish (for the good of the people of course) another kind of dictatorship, often harsher than the one that was overturned.
I would not go as far as saying that Nicolas Alexandrovich Romanov was a saint, but I think that I would have preferred to live under a Romanov than a Stalin, Pol Pot or Ahmadinejad.
All the poor devils who have lived in misery injustice and fear think that a revolution will be the panacea for all their ills. Those people are eager to listen and follow any sweet sounding demagogue who will promise them heaven on earth.
Personally, I would be more inclined to listen to a realist like Winston Churchill who famously declared on May 13th, 1940 “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat” than somebody who promises me the moon.
I am ready to bet that the street vendors of Cairo or Tunis will not be better off under a democracy than under an autocracy.
Let me confess that I am always leery of being tossed from Charybdis to Scylla.
I do not mean to say that I am against the establishment of a democratic system anywhere in the world, but rather that I feel ill at ease by the inevitable vacuum created by a revolution; and especially by the unavowed convictions held by the people who are jockeying for power.
Unfortunately “freedom fighters” have a tendency to bite the hand that fed them, and often morph into mobs bent on carving their own fiefdoms rather than implementing the basic tenets of democracy.
PS: To look at pictures of recent events turn the sound on, click on the “Home” link at the top of the page, and click again on “My photos” located on the right side of the page.