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So Long, Mubarak?



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Obviously the situation in Egypt is extremely fluid and fast-moving. But it look less and less likely that Mubarak will survive absent a Tiananmen-style massacre, and with the elements of the military fraternizing with protesters, that kind of crackdown also looks less likely. If Mubarak is doomed, our interest is in as orderly a transition as possible to a new, more democratic order. The military is key to that. If it remains united and maintains its coherence as an institution, it is a guarantor against utter chaos or a Muslim Brotherhood takeover. On the other hand, the meltdown or splintering of the military is the predicate for a Tehran 1979 or Moscow 1917 situation. We should be urging Mubarak not to crackdown not just for humanitarian reasons, but because it might split the army and make a transition much more dangerous. It is possible to see Mubarak preparing the ground for his exit. His choice of Omar Suleiman as vice president and Ahmed Shafik as prime minister puts in the line of the succession the two men he would most like to see in control to protect Egpyt, and him and his family, should he step down. One observer just told me these appointments show a flow of power to the military in a kind of “soft coup.” The best case is that these men will be able, in a post-Mubarak government, to sell themselves to the people as honest brokers who will keep order until a genuinely free and fair presidential election later in the year. Such an election would probably produce a president who is more nationalist, and more anti-American and anti-Israel, than Mubarak. If that’s regrettable, it’s also unavoidable. I thought President Obama basically struck the right note yesterday, but, as often happens in a revolutionary situation, his line was quickly overtaken by events. Maybe events will shift in a radically new direction in coming hours and days, but it looks like we need to start trying to shape the best possible post-Mubarak future.



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