Whilst I am glad the Egyptian protests have succeeded in ousting President Mubarak, the concern that the alternative may be worse is worth considering. defining "worse" as being more repressive, more destabilising, more incompetent or more anti Western. Rather than look deeply at Egypt I've decided to look up what the results of previous occasions on which regimes have been toppled by mass protests (as opposed to by war) to see if there is any pattern. I am trying to be reasonably unbiased in the choice of countries (I'll be looking at the most populous nations) and objective in the judgements made:
Indonesia: Old regime overthrown in 1998. Democracy has more or less taken root and the country has not succombed to fanatacism. Not anti-Western.
Russia: Crowds led to the defeat of the Soviet hardliners coup d'etat in 1991. Since this led to break up of USSR it has certainly not caused more instability. The successor regime is still repressive and anti Western but it isn't noticably worse than before.
Philippines: The "People Power Revolution" overthrew Marcos regime in 1986 and again, there has been no great breakthrough by the extremist opponents whose existance was supposed to justify the britality of the regime. Not ant Western.
Germany- East German protesters caused the regime to crumble in 1989. As part of a united Germany thongs have improved in almost every category.
Iran- 1979. That didn't go so well.
Thailand- 2008 & 2010- One side over threw the government by mass protests. Lack of real support meant that other side tried the same thing in 2010.
South Korea- 1960 & 1987- 1960 saw protests lead to the fall of strongman Syngman Rhee to be replaced by a similar but less brutal government. 1987 saw that regime deposed by student protests and led to genuine and lasting democracy.
Argentina- 2002- A democratic government overthrown and replaced after an election by another democratic government.
Romania- 1989- Fall of Ceaucescu. Clearly the current regime is an improvement.
OK so that's ten mass movements in 9 countries over the last half century who have overthrown an old regime. By my reckoning only one mostly peaceful revolution has resulted in a regime worse than what went before and most have seen considerable improvements.
Howard Jacobson on Manchester
2 minutes ago