Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Go away and just see what happens

Often enough when I go away camping in August, and am paying no attention, something dramatic happens.  In 1989, I re-entered the world of news to hear that Hungary was taking down its stretch of the Iron Curtain.  In 1991, the coup against Gorbachev took place, followed quickly by the collapse of  the Soviet Union.

A lot of stuff happened this August, but for all the import of British riots and American Russian roulette with the economy, I think the beginning of the trial of Hosni Mubarak in Cairo wins the prize.

Cairo is the place, it is Paris in 1791.  Mubarak is Louis XVI and his judges are...?

When Louis fled France in rejection of the new constitutional monarchy, and was captured doing so, Thomas Paine told the revolutionaries  that how they treated the ex-king would determine the course of the new  republican regime.  He particularly warned against blood vengeance against the traitor-king, which would lead to more blood, and even more.  He was emphatically right.

Hosni Mubarak deserves to answer to a court for his actions, but the trial has its dangers.  The course and meaning and the consequences of the Egyptian revolution may well be determined in that courtroom.  Whether the Arab Spring keeps its potential for humane progress or descends into vengeance -- we shall see.

For a less hopeful set of developments, see these reports and reflections in Syria Comment.

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