"Most rebellions end in carnage and tyranny"

says Niall Ferguson in a commentary recently featured in Newsweek magazine, online here. He pointedly calls into question American’s romantic views of rebellion inherited from our own revolution. Sadly, the record of history seems to agree with him. Does this mean that the whole political philosophy of the Founders was wrong?

I don’t think it was wrong so much as not broadly applicable.

The U.S. Revolution was not designed to overthrow the government of the U.K., it was only to free the thirteen colonies. Nor did we willy-nilly discard everything that we inherited, politically, judicially, socially, from the U.K., but adapted much of it to our new circumstances.

I can’t, off the top of my head, think a revolution that I would consider analogous to the U.S. one.

Perhaps the one in Luna in 2076?

Its quite true:

French Revolution-Established the Reign of Terror and caused the Napoleonic wars
Revolutions of 1848-Caused massive amounts of violence and little lasting reform
Paris Commune-Caused thousands of deaths on both sides including the matyrdom of Archbishop Darboy
Chinese Revolution-Destroyed the slow modernization of the Qing Dyanasty and caused an era of warlords
Russian Revolution-Destroyed the slow progress of the Tsarist monarchy and led to the first Communist government on Earth

The only reason why the American Revolution was a success story was because it was led by “Establishment” men not by radical intellectuals manipulating mobs and conservatives such as George Washington and Alexander Hamilton established a rational government under the Constitution.

In terms of Frank’s two points about the American revolution, the Turkish War of Independence is strongly analogous to American Revolution in the sense that it was primarily directed at foreign occupiers, and dropped the monarchy in favor of previously established republican ideas.

As for the article, what a pile of crap. I get the sense that it is trying to make me worried about the Arab rebellions in some vague way. I know that it mentions Islamists once and states how Republican leaders have clear strategies concerning the middle east. Obama apparently does not. I think the point of the article is this: when Americans do not arrogantly force others to act the way we want them to, people act the way they want to.

I do applaud the author’s attempt to profit from the pundit niche of spreading vague worry about Arab people wanting to be free. I also like his selectivity in discussing revolutions. Finally, his ability to ignore his own statements about bloody revolutions so that he does not feel any need to predict a peaceful new Egypt shows real talent.

edit: Now that I posted, I see that Qin Shi Hunagdi is also talented at carefully selecting revolutions that have no resemblance to Egypt or Tunisia. Well done sir!

The American Revolutionary War was a war started by the wealthy over an argument about taxes. Other revolutions are more about the poor trying to get one over on the wealthy.

some rebellions start in tyranny and even carnage, believe it or not :slight_smile: . They don’t always succeed (witness the Warsaw Ghetto of 1943) but the people involved apparently feel it’s worth a try.