It is now the long morning after, as protesters returned to Tahrir Square to clean it up and savor their victory. There were even some initial scuffles with the military that may be overanxious to assert control and show that it is in charge.
In all the joy of the moment—the type of joy we see so rarely these days in the news—in all the electrifying coverage, and congratulations in the capitals of the West that stood by Mubarak for decades, there is still vast uncertainty.
The Egyptian military, now nominally in charge, has no culture of democracy much less any history of fostering real change. Funded with support from abroad, it is subject to influences from all its many new found friends of “democracy,” especially its patrons in Washington.
It has already sounded the trumpet of reassurance that it will live up to its promises to assure new elections while keeping the country’s foreign commitments intact including the peace treaty with a nervous Israel, and likely is loyalty to the war on terror as well.
It has now dissolved the parliament and suspended the constitution, meeting two key demands of pro-democracy protesters. At the same time, It has also, so far, committed itself to keep the structure of the Mubarak regime in place.
How will this sit with a euphoric public?
So far, we have seen a takeover, but not yet the makings of a transformation. When millions of people were in the streets, they had power. When they are not, power reverts to institutions and a bureaucracy considered the most stifling in the world,
Egypt has been a police state with more than a million informers. That will not change easily.
Already a CIA assistance team has been dispatched, all in the name of guaranteeing democracy, of course. The Mossad’s role has been more low key but you can assume it’s there.
Almost every revolution is menaced by the threat of a counter-revolution and this one is no exception.
On the American right, the big fear stoked by Fox Fuhrer Glenn Beck is from the Islamic boogieman. “This isn’t about Egypt, this is the story of everyone who has ever plotted, or wanted, to fundamentally change or destroy the Western way of life,” he and his cronies warn.
On the left, the worry is that the movement for change is not organized enough to insure change, or even clear about what it wants now. Its leaderless momentum won Mubarak’s ouster, but can it win its desire for a real democracy and economic justice?