Friday, February 11, 2011


The revolution in Egypt makes me think about revolutions in the US. It seems to me that it came surprisingly easily and quickly. Maybe that is a sign of just how corrupt and weak Mubarak's regime had become.

The first American revolution, of course, was the revolution against Britain, led by George Washington and other elites, but supported my most of the common men, although there were some loyalists to the British crown. Although the American revolution was much longer and bloodier than Egypt's, most opinion leaders then were probably equally surprised that the little colonies defeated one of the greatest world powers at that time. Unlike what we know about Egypt at this time, there was a critical mass of intellectual, political and military leaders to take over the government of the newly independent nation. Even then, it was years before we had a Constitution and a fully functioning central government.

Then there was the Civil War. Arguably the Southern states were not trying to overthrow the central government; they just wanted out. But basically that's what the colonies wanted during the Revolutionary War. The Federal Government under Lincoln would not let them go; so, we had an unsuccessful revolution. However, the cost in terms of lives, property, and hardship was astronomical, especially to the South.

One of the closest parallels to the Egyptian demonstration that comes to mind, was the "Bonus Army" march and camp in Washington in 1932 by about 43,000 people, demanding bonuses to help many of the unemployed World War I veterans during the Depression. President Hoover dispersed them by ordering Army units against them. Three of the leaders of the Army units that attacked them were General Douglas McArthur, George Patton, and Dwight Eisenhower, all of who went on to play important roles in World War II. It doesn't sound as if any of the demonstrators was killed in the confrontation, and the protest was broken up.

In my lifetime, several incidents come to mind. One was the assassination of President Kennedy. Although it is probably not true, there will always be some suspicion in my mind that Vice President Lyndon Johnson was responsible for the assassination. If so, the huge Warren Commission investigation was just a cover up, because the idea that there had been a coup in the US would have been too much for the public to bear. But there are tons of conspiracy theories, many of which don't involve Lyndon Johnson, and which are probably more credible, although equally false.

Another possible example was the resignation of President Richard Nixon. In that case, there was not a popular uprising, but he was forced out by a coalition of political elites, provided fuel by the reporting of Woodward and Bernstein. Fortunately his corrupt, worthless Vice President, Spiro Agnew, had been forced out before Nixon was, and solid leader Jerry Ford took over the government. But it was an unorthodox transfer of power for the US. Nixon was not impeached; so, he was not legally forced out of office. Like Mubarak, he left as a result of his own personal decision, albeit under great pressure.

Finally, it can be argued that George W. Bush was not elected in a "free and fair election," but rather was put in office in an extra-Constitutional move by the US Supreme Court. The Supreme Court stopped the legal proceedings about the Florida vote recount and the actual, physical recount. Basically the Supreme Court named Bush the President regardless of what actually happened in the election. It's possible that Bush actually won, but we'll never know for sure.

Thus, the US has had some experiences roughly comparable to what has taken place in Egypt. In every case, however, we had someone ready to assume power. It's not clear to me yet that Egypt has new leadership in place. I guess you could argue that Washington's becoming President after the Revolution was similar to the Egyptian military taking power today, but there were a lot more civilian leaders around Washington -- Jefferson, Franklin, Adams, and the other "founding fathers."

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