Monday, September 02, 2013

Syria and Europe: Lessons from the Nineteenth Century

Arab Spring [LP]
Arab Spring [LP] (Photo credit: Painted Tapes)

Popular demonstrations are taking place across the region's capital cities.

Rioters are demanding political reform, greater freedoms and the removal of the old dictators.

An economic crisis has been a catalyst for a wave of popular uprisings across the continent by the growing educated middle classes.

Liberal reform is everywhere, opposed by entrenched political elites.

Should foreign troops be deployed in support of the protesters?

No - Europe in the early decdes of the nineteenth century.

Following the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 and the subsequent Congress of Vienna, liberal and republican movements took to the streets in cities as diverse as Manchester (1819), Lisbon (1820), Paris and Brussels (both 1830), and Rome (1831). The protests were often violent, resulting in many deaths. In some countries, elements of the armed forces joined with the rebels.

Protests were often put down, not only by national governments and their armies, but also through intervention by allied powers - Austrian forces into northern Italy, British troops to Portugal and French soldiers into neighbouring Spain. Elites defended one another against the growing tide of liberal and republican sentiment.

Comparisons with the Arab Spring and its related uprisings are especially relevant in examining the experience of Greece during this age of revolution. A revolution broke out in 1821, aimed at freeing Greece from the rule of the Ottoman Empire and establishing a liberal constitution for the country. This aim was only partly realised when the Ottomans received military support from the Egyptian viceroy Muhammed Ali, whose troops seized a large part of the Greek mainland by 1826.  Only the southern part of the country remained free enough to sustain its independence from Ottoman rule. 

Fast forward two centuries, and the comparisons with events in the Middle East and North Africa are striking.





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between-the-lines said...

Your comparisons may have their limitations though.

For a start the horrendous population explosion that is now driving a lot of the unemployment, poverty and discontent in the Levant and Maghreb today, was only just getting going in Napoleonic Europe and didn't start really impacting until the Victorian era of over-breeding and industrialism filled the slums to overflowing.

Other more covert factors behind the current destabilisation of the Middle East include the proxy wars against the Shia being fuelled by oligarchies like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States which are overflowing with petrodollars, all aided and abetted by their cronies in the USA and other backers. Back in the early 19th century these places were straw-chewing backwaters.

And these religious fundamentalists who have been helped into power by the useful idiot liberals (even though some have since lost it back to the status quo ante) in early 19th C Europe were also only just starting to hit back against 18th century enlightenment, not really getting the theocratic backsides firmly in charge until the later Victorian decades.

between-the-lines said...

Al - you may find this analysis by actuary Gail Tverberg of interest: