Carl von Clausewitz, a Prussian military strategist who lived through the French Revolution, wrote in his unfinished book On War that ‘war is the continuation of politics by other means’. It is of course something of a trite aphorism, and hides a considerable amount of theory and philosophy. Yet as with all good aphorisms, it reveals something important: in this case, that the seeming differences between politics and war are not so significant as we had thought. Politics is about two sides negotiating the distribution of resources, sometimes along ideological lines, sometimes along economic lines; war is not all that different, save insofar as the rule of law is suspended, such as it may have existed before the outbreak of hostilities. Increasingly, we see sporting theatre being usurped for the purposes of political metaphor. The symbolism, and the language, is a kind of double speak that would be shocking in any other context, and useful for democracies, who don’t tend to actually fight each other.
What is the role of expectation in determining legitimacy? Is legitimacy a relative concept? Tonight Egypt is again in the throws of more demonstrations, while rumours fly about the health of former President Mubarak. Some suggest this is the end of the revolution, much as Ukraine went through a cycle of demonstration against Viktor Yanukovych‘s allegedly rigged victory in 2004, only to return to him after several years of failed ambition in 2010. So Egypt may also revert to its previous state – most likely sans Mubarak, though age waits for no man, and his demise was inevitable anyway. Why does this happen? Is there an unreasonableness to the ambition of crowds?