What is the likelihood of further revolutions in the 21st Century, and what kinds of revolutions are most likely to occur?
Few can predict the future with a high degree of certainty, especially with regard to international developments and future incidences of revolution. If there is one thing one can safely predict, however, it is that revolutions will continue to occur, especially in historically turbulent regions like Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
The conditions under which revolutions occur can vary, but they rarely occur absent a substantial undercurrent of resentment regarding the existing government. The revolutions in Egypt over the past two years should have surprised no one, but the timing of the 2011 revolution that removed long-time President Hosni Mubarak from power was a surprise inasmuch as the explosive beginning of the so-called “Arab Spring” was unforeseen. Egypt is a desperately poor country of 80 million people with large socioeconomic gaps and a history of corruption and unpopular representation. Plus, the size of the Muslim Brotherhood’s membership in Egypt, the birthplace of the Brotherhood, and the recent history of Islamic extremism carried out by precursors of al Qaeda all indicated that a revolution was possible and probable.
Revolutions will continue occur wherever corrupt dictatorships rule over vast numbers of poverty-stricken people. That is why revolutions will continue to occur in Africa. Countries like Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Mauritania (site of 2008 coup d’etat), and other countries in that strife-torn region are perennially ripe for revolutions and/or coups d’etat.
Africa is not alone. The 21st Century witnessed revolutions in Ukraine, Kyrgystan, Serbia, and Georgia in Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, and each of those countries, plus others in those regions, contain the seeds – in terms of autocratic governments, wide-scale poverty and growing income gaps, and wide-spread corruption – of future revolutions. In South Asia, Pakistan remains a constant source of concern regarding the potential of another revolution or coup. While Nepal successfully navigated its way through the transition from monarchy under siege by a Maoist insurgency to genuine democracy, future political instability there is possible.
Burma/Myanmar, ruled for decades by one of the most ruthless dictatorships in the world, saw a short-lived popular uprising in 2007, the Saffron Revolution led by Buddhist monks clothed in saffron robes, that was ruthlessly if unsurprisingly crushed. The possibility of further political instability as that country inches away from the scale of repression that has characterized it cannot be discounted. Lebanon remains poised for some sort of revolution as the militarily powerful Hezbollah movement, a major force in Lebanese politics while also existing as one of the world’s most formidable terrorist organizations, suddenly sees its image deteriorating among that country’s Sunni Muslims resulting from Hezbollah’s participation in the Syrian Civil War on the side of Syria’s government. The Cedar Revolution there that followed the 2005 assassination of popular former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and that forced out Syria’s occupying army presaged the probability of additional revolutionary activity in Lebanon.
This represents only a small number of countries in which revolution is possible in the years to come. The inevitability of more revolution throughout the world is a given.