Games Revolutionaries Play

by Henry Precht

It seems a shame to let all that fol-de-rol from the Olympics be cast aside after such an abbreviated run. As Sochi revealed to us novices, there are always new, curious forms of sport that merit recognition.

One of those with growing multi-seasonal appeal to large groups of men and women in the streets is the popular coup or revolution game. Worldwide, these outbreaks — while spontaneous and adopting local rules of engagement — must adhere to certain principles of revolution that have been set forth by seasoned scholars and pundits parachuting in.

Let’s see who garners the top medals in the twelve prescribed categories:

1. Revolution brings together people of disparate ideologies and goals who are united only in seeking to bring down an autocrat; after success only one faction survives and exercises autocratic dominance over the former allies

Gold Medal: Iran; Silver: Egypt; Bronze: Syria (pending)

2. Revolution begins with economic grievances, adds political complaints and, after success, continues in reverse order, i.e., political, then economic gripes

Gold Medal: Tunisia; Silver: Egypt; Bronze: Ukraine (pending)

3. Parliamentary or other opposition with highest potential for splitting off their territory from the nation

Gold Medal: Ukraine Silver: Taliban Bronze: Arizona

4. Outsiders support opposition forces who are (1) long term enemies or (2) become so

Gold Medal: Syria; Silver: Egypt; Bronze: Libya

5. Outsiders cannot remember who is fighting whom or for what purpose

Gold Medal: Thailand; Silver: Yemen; Bronze: Bosnia

6. Opposition pleads for religious or sectarian freedom, but proponents of those virtues do not listen and persist with oppression

Gold Medal: Israel; Silver: Bahrain; Bronze: China (in Tibet)

7. Victorious opposition which has fought for religious freedom later oppresses its fellow citizens

Gold Medal: South Sudan; Silver: Iraq; Bronze: Turkey

8. Most outrageous assertions of guilt of opposition and purity of rulers

Gold Medal: Egypt; Silver: Saudi Arabia; Bronze: Russia

9. Opposition condemns rival party overreach while raking in cash from wealthy power centers

Gold Medal: Tea Party; Silver: Egypt; Bronze: South Africa

10. Highest level of distrust maintained towards its American partner in the struggle against revolutionaries

Gold Medal: Afghanistan; Silver: Israel; Bronze: Egypt

11. Most comfortable middle class opposition movement

Gold Medal: Venezuela; Silver: Turkey; Bronze: Scotland

12. Most determined to kill as many of its own people as necessary to hold or achieve power

Gold Medal: Syria; Silver: Al Qaeda in Iraq/Syria; Bronze: Chechnya

Henry Precht

Henry Precht, a retired Foreign Service Officer, worked mainly in the Middle East. His assignments included the Arab-Israel Desk after the 1967 war, four years in Tehran as political-military officer, in charge of the State Department Iran Desk during the revolution and hostage crisis, and two tours in Egypt – Alexandria in the 1960s and deputy ambassador in Cairo 1981-85. Precht speaks and writes on the region, and has published a book of short stories, A Diplomat’s Progress.



  1. 13- A superpower that does not learn that meddling in other countries’ internal affairs will backfire and end in disaster:
    Gold Medal: USA in Iraq; Silver: USA in Libya; Bronze: USA in Ukraine (pending, but already the outcome seems quite clear)

  2. Farhang does it again. I’m left speechless, which I’m sure others appreciate.

  3. Thank you Mr. Precht. I knew that you would not mind me making those rather provocative comments. I always read your informative articles with great interest and learn a lot from them.

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