The controlled public rage against corruption, oppression, and marginalization at the hands of tyrannical Arab regimes that has unfolded in recent weeks is unprecedented and probably unstoppable, but it caught most Western observers by surprise. While they accept the Arab revolt for what it is—a rejection of dehumanizing conditions—most Western analysts have dug out their old notes and recycled their customary predictions: The inevitable outcome will be that Islamists will take over and mobilize the Arabs against Western interests.
Though Egyptian state TV has announced Hosni Mubarak’s resignation, it is unclear what the mass revolt rocking Egypt has in store for that ancient nation’s future. But what is clear is that the momentous events in Cairo--and, indeed, the massive tsunami of people-power engulfing the entire Mideast--have put some quarters of the American left in a most awkward position.
UPDATE: On Friday the Army made its decision. Mubarak was forced out. His Thursday speech was a disaster and it seems to have helped persuade the generals that they had, at last, to choose between Mubarak and the people. They made the right choice.
Who rules Egypt, and who will rule it tomorrow? After 30 years the Hosni Mubarak period is coming to a close, but how the period ends—in violence and turmoil, or on a stable path to democracy—remains unclear.
It's one thing that news organizations misread the situation in Egypt today, issuing conflicting reports throughout the day. (Hosni Mubarak will resign, no he won't, yes he will -- that's how today's events were reported, until finally Mubarak made his announcement.) But it's a little disheartening when the CIA chief, Leon Panetta, gets it wrong.
The Working Group on Egypt, led by Michele Dunne and Robert Kagan, yesterday sent letters to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, urging the administration “to press for an unmistakable and irreversible transition to democracy.”
Here's a very graphic video of an Egyptian police truck running over anti-regime demonstrators. As the vehicle cruises past, without having stopped, you can hear demonstrators referring to the police as "infidels," "sons of bitches" and then starting a chant, "Hosni Mubarak is falling."
Over the last twenty-four hours, we’ve seen Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak promise not to seek another term, quickly followed by a peek at what the next eight months might look like if he continues to cling on to power.
Just last night I had encouraged an Egyptian friend, Raouf, living in the United States, who wanted to go back home to witness his country’s historic events. “I need to see this,” he told me excitedly. Now with fighting in the streets today I’m not so sure.
The American reaction to the revolution in Egypt has been one of a forced smile, the kind a father might wear as he marries his daughter off to a man he doesn’t trust. Hillary Clinton heightened this metaphor when she referred to Hosni Mubarak, the retirement fast-tracked dictator of Egypt, as “family” last week.
The Obama administration has gradually been adjusting to reality. On Friday evening, President Obama was still exhorting President Mubarak: “I told him he has a responsibility to give meaning to those words, to take concrete steps and actions that deliver on that promise.” By this morning, Secretary Clinton had basically abandoned Mubarak. She was talking to Chris Wallace about the need for “a transition to democracy,” “an orderly transition to a democratic government,” “an orderly transition” with a “a well thought-out plan that will bring about a democratic, participatory government.”