The Color of Confusion

Well, the big news is in: Scott Brown won a “shock victory” over Marthy Coakley in Massachusetts, taking for the Republicans “the Kennedy seat” and seriously endangering the President’s health care reform plan. Okay. Whatever. Great. Personally, I’m a bit relieved that the incredibly boneheaded health care reform plan (“doing anything is better than doing nothing, no matter what the cost!!”) now stands a reasonable chance of failing, but other than that, it’s pretty hard for me to get excited over Republican victories, since they’re still the same cynical, useless bunch of bozos they were before Obama became President.

That’s not stopping some people from engaging in a little triumphalism. One of the dumbest things I’ve seen thus far hails from David Boaz of the Cato Institute who likens Brown’s victory to the “color revolutions” that everyone — myself most admittedly included — hoped would bring democracy and prosperity to some of the world’s most politically backwards states like Georgia, Ukraine, and Lebanon:

Around the world over the past decade, longstanding and stultifying power elites have been toppled by what came to be known as the “color revolutions” — notably the Rose Revolution in Georgia, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, and hopefully the Green Revolution in Iran. Now the political elites in Boston and Washington have been rocked by the Brown Revolution.

Okay, yeah. I get it. It’s mostly just a play on words. But it’s an exceptionally poorly timed play on words, given that Viktor Yushchenko, the leader of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, just suffered an utterly catastrophic defeat at the polls, winning a staggering 5% of the vote. Meanwhile, his erstwhile ally, the incredibly dishy Yulia Tymoshenko came in a distant second to Viktor Yanukovych, the man whose putative corruption and unacceptable pro-Moscow ties led to the Orange Revolution in the first place. Since neither Yanukovych or Tymoshenko earned more than 50% of the vote, there will be a run-off, where Tymoshenko is expected to do better. Nevertheless, it seems like a relatively safe bet that Yanukovych is going to win in the end, largely as a result of the Orange Revolution’s almost complete failure to carry through on any campaign promises (yeah, yeah, I know what I wrote…).

As for the other “color revolutions,” they’ve hardly been more successful. Lebanon’s “Cedar Revolution” (and I do realize that “cedar” isn’t so much a color as it is a tree), got bogged down in internecine politics and the central government’s inability to monopolize violence in the country allowed Hizb’Allah to drag Lebanon into a devastating and pointless war with Israel in 2006 that, in the final analysis, probably only served to strengthen Hizb’Allah at the expense of the “Cedar” revolutionaries.

Georgia, too, had high hopes for Mikheil Saakashvili, whose “Rose Revolution” finally swept aside the old Communist apparatchik and Gorvachev right-hand man, Eduard Shevardnadze. Shevardnadze, of course, had, before becoming President, been embroiled in a lovely little civil war that pitted his motley collection of armed gangs against the motley collection of armed gangs loyal to author, academic, and maniac nationalist Zviad Gamsakhurdia (plus some armed gangs fighting for separatist elements in Abkhazia, who were supported by armed gangs from Chechnya led by future Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev and a much larger armed gang called “the Russian military”; all of which isn’t to mention the armed gangs he fought against in South Ossetia). Anyways, Shevardnadze was never that popular and his government was constantly embroiled in corruption scandals, accusations of vote-rigging, and the like (which I’m led to believe is more or less the way things go in Georgia, but I digress…)

So at any rate, Saakashvili (“Misha”) swept to power and… immediately got embroiled in some ethno-nationalist bother with the pseudo-autonomous gangster-statelet of Adjaria and got stuck dealing with an increasingly assertive and irritated Russia (which hasn’t been on good terms with Georgia for… well, awhile now), which was angry about some goings-on in the Pankisi Gorge across the border from Chechnya (where Russia’s own version of “the Troubles” has been going on for about the last 200 years). “Misha” did alright in those two crises but ended up getting accused of creeping toward authoritarianism and nationalism and, in 2008, letting the entirety of Abkhazia and South Ossetia be forcibly detached from Georgia, probably forever. Oops! Suffice it to say that “Misha” and his “Rose Revolution” are viewed by the Georgian public with a bit of a jaundiced eye these days, though I’m not sure anyone’s exactly pining for the salad days of Gamsakhurdia.

Anyways, didn’t Boaz mention some piffile about an incipient “Green Revolution” in Iran? Yeah, well… given how nicely it all worked out there last time…

So after a half-decade of failed “color revolutions”, to say nothing of the the inevitable “red vs. blue” screaming that we’re not going to hear the end of in the press until Godzilla makes an appearance on Haiti, please do forgive me if I’m a bit nonplussed by all this talk of a “Brown Revolution. And spare me the Taco Bell jokes. After a few months of watching the tradition of American comedy be elevated by almost painfully high brow and stuffily academic “tea bagger” cracks, I think we’ll all be… err… relieved when the fine tradition of the scatological joke makes its triumphant return to politics.


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