The President's brief comments from the State Dining Room of the White House suggest that he doesn't necessarily see the imminent end to Mubarak's reign -- or consider it anything close to a slam dunk that whatever might emerge post-Mubarak will be more democratic. If this were a clear choice between an authoritarian regime and a western-style democracy, it'd be a no-brainer. But it's not. It's a problem to be managed, with the sober understanding that the real world offers potential outcomes that are worse than MubarakThe history of American "management" in crises like this is . . . well . . . it sucks, really. Furthermore, any public perception that the US is "managing" this can only hurt in the long run. After all, we have enough troubles in the Middle East; interfering in what is, quite clearly, an uprising fed by exhaustion among the Egyptian people with the lack of leadership and the success of the Tunisian revolt.
I have been following events via a live video feed from Al Jazeera's English-language broadcast online. While a mixture, as all such events tend to be, of the episodic burst of excitement and terror followed by hours-long lulls of not much at all, it is evident this is an outburst of popular resentment, and the express desire of tens of thousands of Egyptians to rid themselves not only of Hosni Mubarak, but a dictatorship in its dotage, no longer even pretending to help out the mass of the Egyptian people, 50% of whom barely exist on $2 a day, and whose social infrastructure has crumbled. While the system provides near universal education through University level, there are no jobs of any kind for those who emerge, degree in hand.
The problems Egypt faces are multiple, but it seems pretty clear there is a desire for some sort of democratic reforms to get the ball rolling for larger social and economic reforms. Any volatile situation presents dangers, to be sure. There is zero, zilch, nada indication of any kind that there is any participation by Islamic extremists, as claimed by idiotic former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton. Indeed, the leaders of the Islamic Brotherhood were carted off to prison early-on in the protests; the allegations that the country has been infiltrated by any extremists, religious or otherwise, is just not borne out by the facts on the ground. Indeed, the one person many of those in the streets seem to be turning to is Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed Elbaradei, former chief UN Weapons Inspector for Iraq, who has voiced his enthusiastic support for "the youth" of Egypt, and made repeated calls for Mubarak to step down.
I do not know what the future holds in and for Egypt. Right now, there seems to be a shift from large-scale, peaceful protest to an increase in looting, at least in Cairo. This is due, in part, to the disappearance of any police presence in the capital. Yesterday, when the military was called out, they interposed themselves between the police and protesters, protecting the latter from an increase in violent force from the former. While protecting key areas of the city - from the foreign embassies and various government buildings to the Museum of Antiquities which was - briefly - entered, with some displays smashed but nothing appearing to have been stolen - much of the city is experiencing an absence of any presence of law enforcement, which can only lead to trouble.
There are also reports that water has been shut off to one of Alexandria's eleven districts.
So, the situation is still fluid - despite a lack of water in part of one city - and it is anybody's guess whether Mubarak stays or goes, the military continues to protect the people or turns on them, or perhaps the police return to their duty stations and protect the people and shops of Cairo from the depredations of looters. My most fervent wish is for the situation to resolve itself for the benefit of the great mass of the Egyptian people, desperate for a change. My next most fervent wish is that Americans, official and otherwise, allow this to evolve - or, perhaps, sadly, devolve - as a wholly Egyptian affair. This is not a "crisis" to be "managed", but a possible revolution to observe and, if successful, support as much as we can.