When important and unexpected developments shake up world and national affairs, I have the impulse to step back and take another look at my own sense of “the big picture.”
Sometimes I see (and hope) for major “turning points” when nothing fundamental has changed or where the “turn” is to a new form of an old crisis. For me, the optimistic wish often proves father to the thought. Examples: the belief that the post-World War II agreements reached at Teheran made likely an era of “peaceful coexistence” between the victorious allies; elation over the prospect that Gorbachev’s reforms would achieve democratic socialism; overestimating the transformational impact of Obama’s election.
With the murderous events now overtaking Egypt, I can’t help but look back painfully at what I wrote in my blog of February 28, 2011, Seeing the World By Way of Egypt:
“Egypt is the latest example that relatively peaceful popular democratic revolts can arise even under conditions of severe repression and dictatorship. It’s not that the dictatorial regime shies away from using violence to the maximum extent feasible: the Egyptian Health Ministry reports a toll of 365 deaths during the uprising. It’s that it may not be feasible to unleash its full arsenal of violence against a united, courageous and determined mass opposition while the whole world is watching. Such revolts have ousted tyrants and toppled their governments, although they have usually fallen short of achieving fundamental social change.”
The 2011 blog outlines pretty fully my view at the time of the “big picture”, how the “Arab Spring” reflected changing world realities. It has enough conditional clauses and qualifications that I could fall back on in the spirit of pundits who can never acknowledge personal fallibility. But the terrible news from Egypt doesn’t leave me in a mood to minimize a grievous miscalculation.