Protest in Tahrir, Cairo, Jan. 25 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The history of revolutions demonstrates that they are essentially a process, often lasting several years, not an isolated event. Academic studies, such as The Anatomy of Revolution by Crane Brinton, or Uprising by Mark Almond, have shown how revolutions tend to follow certain recognizable patterns. Perceived injustices perpetrated by the government spark a popular uprising which then catches fire and spreads. Factions within the pro- and anti-revolutionaries arise, fostering new conflicts, then often fade away. Leaders of this or that faction come and go. Finally a demagogic figure often emerges above the chaos and seizes power – a Cromwell as in the English revolution, a Napoleon as in the French, a Lenin as in the Russian.Or, as in Egypt, a General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, newly elevated to Field Marshal on his way to the presidency.
Revolutions, as Almond points out, are 24-hour-a day events – they require stamina and quick thinking from both protesters and dictators. An elderly, inflexible, or ailing leader contributes to the crisis. Almond cites the cancer-stricken Shah of Iran, the debilitated Honecker in East Germany and Indonesia's Suharto. In all cases decades in power had encouraged a political sclerosis which made nimble political maneuvers impossible and left the revolutionaries dominant.
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