A reader writes:
I think your reader is misrepresenting the nature of the Greek War for Independence. It was not about democracy, but rather ethnic nationalism. The intervention of Russian, French and British forces (the Battle of Navarino) was also not inspired by a desire to spread liberal democracy.
Czarist Russia, ruled by the autocrat Nicholas I, was the most pro-Greek of the three powers because the Greeks shared the Russians' Orthodox Christian faith. Spreading democracy was never a Russian goal. The more liberal powers, France and Britain, intervened because of domestic political pressure from philohellenic communities in those countries who dreamed of liberating the cradle of Western Civilization from its Turkish Muslim overlords. Again, democracy was not part of the equation.
Your reader also makes it sound as though the newly independent Greece was something approaching a liberal democratic country, but it was not. The Greek state created in the aftermath of the war was governed by a bumbling absolute monarch wannabe. It took nearly a quarter century to replace him with a modern constitutional monarch.
I also do not entirely agree that Metternich was on the wrong side of history. It's true that he defended the illiberal power of the European aristocracy, but like most aristocrats at the time, he was peace-loving cosmopolitan. He opposed, not just democracy, but also the type of ethnic nationalism that was stirred up by the Napoleonic Wars. Knowing, as we now do, the horror of ethnic strife that would eventually come to Europe, it is hard not to concede that Metternich had a point.
None of this - not one iota - is in any way analogous to the revolution in Libya. The Libyans are having a civil war. We have intervened on the side of rebels, who have no hope of taking control of the whole country. My opposition to the intervention is based, as yours seems to be, on not knowing what the hell we are trying to accomplish. What is our goal? An independent Benghazi state? An autonomous zone needing constant Western protection? Are we just trying to give the rebels a fighting chance? Are we willing to abandon them if they don't succeed in that chance? I don't know. Do you? Does anyone?
(Image: Theodoros Vryzakis (oil painting, 1852, Benaki Museum, Athens) illustrates Bishop Germanos of old Patras blessing the Greek banner at Agia Lavra on the outset of the national revolt against the Turks on 25 March 1821.)
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