Paul Greenberg
Reading the daily news stories out of Cairo is like following the fever chart of some disease whose course was traced long ago. And can now be found in any standard medical textbook. In this case, just look under Revolution, Stages of.

Next week's news out of Cairo -- indeed, next year's -- can be foreseen. Indeed, it has been by students of revolution, who inevitably come to sound less like poli-sci majors than diagnosticians.

Just as first-year medical students used to trudge around with "Gray's Anatomy" under their arm, every member of our diplomatic corps should be equipped with a copy of Crane Brinton's "Anatomy of a Revolution" -- if one can still be found in the rare history department that has not forsaken history for ersatz substitutes like Gender Studies or Numbers Crunching 101.

Professor Brinton, one of the good things to come out of Harvard, explained the course of all modern revolutions, that is, revolutions a la francaise, as neatly as an epidemiologist tracing the course of a familiar, parasitic disease:

The contagion called Revolution occurs as a series of successive shocks from right to left, from modest reform to the usual Reign of Terror, till a breaking point is reached (Thermidor) and chaos gives birth to its favorite child, tyranny. As surely as the French Revolution led to a Bonaparte with his imperial ways and ego.

It's all as familiar as the hubris that leads to downfall. The Greeks, like the Hebrews before them, knew all about hubris, or at least enough to ignore the familiar signs till it overcame them.

Now the Egyptians, still restive under the watchful eye of the usual generals and the batons of the usual police units, await their Bonaparte. He should appear any day or maybe year now. Perhaps in the guise of the next Nasser. Or maybe he'll be some ayatollah. Or even a general devoid of charisma, this being the age of the bureaucrat. Now even dictators must be dull.

None of the news out of Egypt should surprise. It's the normal course of a modern revolution, that is, a revolution in the French mode. Just as Paris had its Reign of Terror in the 18th century, Cairo now awaits its Holy Terror. Or for the fever to break and then recede into corruption as usual. Precisely when the tipping point will arrive, the political scientists and foreign policy "experts" can debate. But no one watching the violence erupt in one Egyptian city after another can doubt that the whole, revolutionary syndrome is proceeding right on schedule.

. .

Events in Egypt scarcely register with whoever is responsible for making American foreign policy these days, if anyone is. Our policymakers mainly just watch, and wait for the dust to settle. And the blood.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.