February 5th, 2011
12:30 PM ET

Letters to the President: #747 'Spotting the seeds of revolt'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Reporter's Note: Several leaders in the Arab world are under pressure for big changes. Our president, however, is only under pressure to read my daily letter to the White House. Well, maybe there is more to the job than that…

Dear Mr. President,

I heard someone say the other day that revolutions are difficult things to predict. I agree, and I don’t.

They are certainly difficult to predict in the sense that it is very hard to see precisely which direction they will head. If you look at the Russian Revolution, for example, there were so many players representing so many different interests and scrambling for position, I don’t think anyone could have accurately said near the beginning how the country would wind up. I’m not sure they could have been even ballpark close.

Harder still, is predicting where and when any uprising will end which, of course, bears heavily on the difficulty described above. Sometimes outside forces step in. Sometimes internal forces collapse. Sometimes something utterly unforeseen drags the whole affair down an unexpected byway.

But predicting the rise of a revolution is not so difficult. Oh sure, it is a challenge to pinpoint the exact month and day, but the general discontent that leads to upheavals is as noticeable as a line of thunderheads on the horizon. You just have to look for them.

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