The Uniqueness of the American Revolution
The American Revolution was absolutely unique. I can find no other counterpart to compete with it. Much of modern history is that of peoples seeking to replicate the success of the American Revolution, and failing, usually miserably.
Before, after, and during the Revolution, America was run by republican principles. At no point between 1775 and 1789 - actually the start of our second [Constitutional] Republic -- was there a dictatorial government. The Continental Congress, though horribly ineffective at times, was a representative body.
How often is that seen in history? Almost never.
The first nation to try and replicate our success was France, with its Revolution of 1789, where class rivalries and foreign intrigues made the government unstable. The peasantry took the revolution as an opportunity to settle old grudges. No one had any real experience in self-government, which quickly became evident.
Eventually, a dictatorship arose under Robespierre, and Louis Antoine de Saint-Just, the latter having one of the most ironic names in history. Tens of thousands went to the guillotine, on the flimsiest of accusations, quite often made up by enemies for personal reasons.
Proclaiming Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité, the French Revolution set the tone for later totalitarian dictatorships. Lenin would call for a Red Terror, using the French experience as a model. Revolutionary France ironically became a model for tyranny, not liberty.
A corrupt Catholic Church was not merely disestablished in France, but Christianity itself was attacked -- an all too common feature of post-American revolutions. The French changed the week to ten days, undoing 18 centuries of Christian experience. Robespierre tried to institute a new secular religion: The Cult of the Supreme Being. France was de-Christianized.
The months were given new titles such as: Floréal [flower], Brumair [fog], Fructidor [fruit], and Thermidor [heat], corresponding to the weather. Actually not a bad idea, as these months did have colorful names. This reform never took hold. But the metric system, installed by the Revolution, did remain.
The French Revolution had no sense of what to keep, what to modify, and what to discard. In the end, the French Revolution was undone by the Thermidorian Reaction, where the Revolutionaries themselves had their own appointment with the same guillotine which they had inflicted on others. A corrupt right wing directory took over, undoing much of the revolution's advances. In the end, Napoleon siezed the government and set up a monarchy, the very thing the French Revolution was supposed to have erased.
We did not see this in America. In 1783, Washington was offered a dictatorship by the army, frustrated with an inept Continental Congress which refused to pay their war veterans; but Washington refused it, thus saving the goals of the Revolution.
Not so in France, where Robespierre, Louis Saint-Just, the Directory, or the later Napoleon simply got rid of their opponents.
France was the first attempt to bring the ideals of the American Revolution elsewhere, and it failed. Ironically, it would be the French Revolution which would be regularly replicated all over the world, that and its subsequent tyrannies. Rather than copying America's genuine article, subsequent revolutionaries would copy France's flawed "attempt."
The American Revolution had not sought to change man, but merely expel a bad foreign [British] government. The French Revolution sought to change human nature, which is why it failed.
Latin American revolutions often ended in cycles of dictatorship, and anarchy, followed by more dictatorship. Chile is a noticeable exception, but there they had Berndardo O'Higgins, a man who later abdicated rather than plunge the country into a civil war when a right wing coup sought to undo his regime. O'Higgins had been a bit of an enlightened despot who moved societal change a bit too fast, causing a reactionary leadership to overthrow him. His resignation earned plaudits, even from his foes.
Here we see the first principle: Revolutions are only as good as the men in them. Men like Washington and O'Higgins are rare. If people are not schooled in self-government, nor have the temper to govern themselves wisely, they are better off under a dictator rather than being given a freedom they will abuse.
A modern example would be Egypt, where General Sisi's dictatorship protects what little liberty Egypt has much better than the previous democratically elected Mohammed Morsi, who sought an Islamic Republic. Idiotically, Obama eschewed Sisi.
Freedom has to be inculcated in the people who seek it or else any revoution which seeks to impose it will go awry. It has to be a bottom up operation. It must swell up from the people or it will fail. Democracy cannot tendered to peoples predisposed to tyranny, as most people are.
This is the madness of Obama's foreign policy -- and George W. Bush's too -- which sought to bring democracy to the Mideast. Islam is incompatible with democracy. The best that can be hoped for is setting up enlightened dictators who will keep the civil rights abuses to the bare minimum necessary to control the mullahs and their calls for jihad.
Into such a situation was thrown Bashir Assad. He was educated in the West, and had a British born and educated wife, when he was called back home to Syria in prepration to take over after his father's death. There was hope that the "Westernized" Assad might slowly reform the leftist tyranny of Syrian Ba'athism, which had the virtue of imposing secular government in an area of the world where free religious expression was dangerous. At least Assad protected the minority Christians and Druze.
But tribal pressures were too much to fight, and Bashir let his brutal brother, Maher, continue to direct the vicious Mukhabarat and army. Apparently, as savage as Maher is, he was not brutal enough. Salafist Islamic extremists rebelled, setting up local tyrannies even more vicious. The West, seeking to get rid of Saddam Hussein, and Bashir Assad, both brutal but secular, and to replace them with democracy, got ISIS instead. Anybody with minimal knowledge of history could have seen it coming.
Second principle: Unfettered Islam is so savage that only brutal tyranny can restrain it.
Western governments, which treat democracy as a religion, rather than a liberty to only be given to the worthy, immediately started to help the rebels, clueless as their real intentions. Thus we see Syria destroyed today. Half of its people in some form of exile, with no peace in sight.
I remember telling people in 2011, that as bad as Assad is -- and he is horrible -- he was infinitely to be preferred over his Salafist opponents. To control Islam, only the most vicious of dictators can be effective; and while we in the West might despise the tyranny, the alternative would be worse. Very few listened, though if one had just paid attention to Syrian Christians at that time in 2011 (Click Here), they could have been instructed. Of course, the Obama administration, which worships democracy, chose the Islamist side. Doesn't anyone remember that Hitler was popular?
The same with Libya. By 2011, Muammar Qaddafi was at least behaving. Dictator though he was, anyone schooled in Locke knew that Qaddafi was to be preferred over the Al-Qaeda backed revolutionaries who sought to overthrown him. So who did America and the West support?!
Again, the West had forgotten liberty, and confused it with democracy.
In the 19th century, the French, after a series of botched attempts cycling between monarchs, finally succeeded at achieving the republic they set out to create in 1789. The principles of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité finally sank in; but it took the loss of the Franco-Prussian War to shock and force them to set up a somewhat stable republic. France was one of the few countries to democratize successfully; but it took a long effort.
Our American Revolution succeeded because the founding fathers understood the difference between liberty and democracy. They favored the former over the latter, and set up a republic. They also knew what to retain and when to stop. The American Revolution sought to re-engineer the government, not to re-create men. Hence America avoided the Terror of France, and the Red Terror of so many eastern revolutions.
Finally, Americans themselves, by virtue of being biblically minded at that time, understood the difference between liberty and license. Not everyone, but enough among the populace so that a stable government could be formed.
The goal was liberty, not necessarily democracy -- though that might be nice. The West has forgotten the foundations of liberty's roots. As long as we seek to set up democracy where Islam exists, or where the people have no concept of true liberty, we will fail, and bankrupt ourselves doing so. People have to be ready for democracy. Outside the West, true liberty is rare.
Japan is one noteable exception. Israel, for all its many virtues, tenders too much power to the rabbis, and has had to institute somewhat of a police state apparatus to control its Arabs. South Korea, rather than being another exception, is actually roughly half Christian and growing; and quite Westernized.
Impolitic though it be to state: Apart from a genuine, not merely a nominal, Christian culture, free governments are quite rare. The West had better apply this lesson to its foreign policies, and to its own internal practices at home, lest we lose more of our liberties at home.
Christianity may be the difference between the liberty of the American Revolution, and the Terror of the French Revolution. Happy Independence Day!
Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who is not Jewish, Latin, nor Arab. He runs a website, http://latinarabia.com, where he discusses the subculture of Arabs in Latin America. He wishes his Spanish were better.