Mubarak's End Game

I wrote this yesterday and today it is apparent that Mubarak and the generals have organised the counter revolution whose first aim is to drive the anti Mubarak from the streets.  This can go on for a while until most are exhausted and stay home.

Then the army can impose marshal law and go in and take the streets back.

What happens then is up to Mubarak and those around him.  Expect the radical Muslims to be powerfully suppressed this time around and to even be blamed for creating the uproar.  I simply do not see a military leader like Mubarak folding to the mob, but i do now expect him to organize his transition to retirement.  There is no further need to put it off because this crisis allows him to clean house on the way out.

#######  2 Feb 2011

I do not think that Hosni plansto hang on, but I do think he plans to leave on his own terms a governmentquite able to govern and not allowing the likes of radical Islam anywhere nearthe honey pot.  Otherwise a death squadwill hunt him down.

It is not clear to me that hecould personally pull it off, but it appears likely that his successors willsimply because it is in their own interests. This is a little like Yeltsin’s hand off to Putin.

Neither the police nor the armyhas done much to interfere with the mob. In fact their strategy is to let them burn themselves out.  That is as mentioned in this article, likelythe best strategy.  They will get tiredand they will get hungry and then they will get nervous about were the nextmeal is coming from. 

The thugs are running abouttrying to organize the next kleptocracy for which the population has no taste.  Only the Army will determine the next form ofgovernment by acceding to a formal structure put in place somehow.  In the meantime time is on Mubarak’s side asthe crowd diminishes.

Egypt’s leader has gambled that he can ride outthe protests and hold on. It’s a pretty good gamble.

Feb 1, 2011


Imagine yourself as Hosni Mubarak, master of Egypt for nearly 30 years. You’reold, unwell, detested and addicted to power. You could have orchestrated agraceful exit by promising to preside over free and fair presidential electionslater this year—elections in which the Mubarak name would not be on the ballot.Instead, you gambled that you could ride out the protests and hold on.

It’s a pretty good gamble.

Like everyone else, you’ve been “listening” to Egyptians marchingthrough the streets and telling you it’s time to go. That’s an opinion they’lllikely revise after a few more neighborhoods in Cairoand Alexandriaare ransacked, looted and torched by gangs of hooligans.

But you haven’t just been listening to the demonstrators. You’ve alsobeen watching them—the way they dress, the way they shave. On Sunday, in Tahrir Square, youcould tell right away that most were from the Muslim Brotherhood, though theywere taking care not to chant the usual Islamic slogans. And Western liberalswant you to relinquish power to them?

Then there are the usual “democracyactivists,” minuscule in number, better known to Western journalists than toaverage Egyptians, most of them subsisting on some kind of grant from a WesternNGO. They think they’re lucky to have Mohamed ElBaradei as their champion, withhis Nobel Peace Prize and his lifetime in New York,Vienna—everywhere, that is, except Egypt itself.They think he gives them respectability. They’re wrong.

Finally, there are the middle-class demonstrators, the secularprofessionals and minor businessmen. In theory they’re your biggest threat. Inpractice they’re your ace in the hole.

What unites the protesters is anger. But anger is an emotion, not astrategy, much less a political agenda. What, really, does “Down With Mubarak”offer the average Egyptian?
If the Brotherhood has its way, Egypt will become a Sunni theocracy modeled on Iran. If thedemocracy activists have theirs, it’ll be a weak parliamentary system,incapable of exercising authority over the army and a cat’s paw for aBrotherhood that knows its revolutionary history well enough to remember thename of Alexander Kerensky.

Luckily for you, this analysis is becoming plainer by the day to manyEgyptians, especially since Mr. ElBaradei, imagining he has the upper hand, stumbledinto a political alliance with the Brotherhood. Also increasingly plain is thatit’s in your hands to blur the “fine line between freedom and chaos,” as youaptly put it last week, and to give Egyptians a long, hard look at the latter.No, it wasn’t by your cunning design that thousands of violent prisoners made ajailbreak last week. And the decision to take police off the streets was donein the interests of avoiding bloody scenes with protesters.

Yet all the same, the anarchy unleashed on Egyptian streets has playedstraight into your hands. The demonstrators want a freedom that looks like London or Washington.Your task is to remind them that it’s more likely to look like Baghdad, circa 2006.

No wonder the mood among Cairo’sshopkeepers, many of whom supported the initial demonstrations, is turningsharply in your favor. Those shopkeepers will soon be joined by housewives whowant to feel safe in the streets; and tourism workers who want Egypt to remaina safe destination, and everyone else with a stake in a stable environment. Youmay be 81, but time is still on your side. And patience is rarely a virtue ofthe young, who now crowd the streets.

So you’re right to order the army not to fire: The last thing you needis to furnish the protesters with a galvanizing event, or the officers with anembittering one. But the analysts who suppose this decision is a sign ofweakness fail to appreciate how neatly it serves your purposes. Nearly allEgyptians are agreed that the army is the one “good” institution in thecountry—competent, mighty and incorruptible.

But just who do they think the army is? Youare its commander in chief and the keeper of its interests. Through you, thearmy controls an estimated 40% of the economy. Through you, retired officersare guaranteed lucrative careers running state-owned companies or gettingsenior political appointments. Will your officers hazard their perquisites fora hazy notion of popular freedom? Unlikely.

Today will be the moment of truth. Millions are expected to come outinto the streets. But what will they do, other than chant slogans? And who willthey fight, if the army won’t fight them? And what other buildings will theyput to the torch, without further alienating everyone who isn’t in the march?

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