In my previous post on February 1, I noted that Hosni Mubarak’s days were numbered. The people of Egypt had written his ticket. It remained only for the military to issue his boarding pass. It has been reported that this morning at 9 a.m. EST, Mubarak left Cairo by plane for his coastal resort home in Sharm el-Sheik.
This is a monumental event in history, one that is reminiscent of the Revolution of 1989 that toppled the communist regimes in the Soviet Union and its satellite states. In both cases it has been the result of a popular movement of the people, not something orchestrated by any outside power.
Not just Washington, DC, but all of the world’s leaders were caught off guard. They are now scrambling to put the right spin on the news. They must appear to have been complicit, or at least not totally “out of the loop,” as one might say. But anyone who has been following the news out of Egypt knows different. The confusion in the White House was more than evident, with the President appearing to support the Egyptian people, and the Secretary of State appearing to call for a “smooth” transition with Mubarak retaining at least the appearance of head of state.
Who are the winners and the losers in this revolution? That remains to be seen.
We are tempted to proclaim the people the winners, but history urges us not to be too quick with that assumption. No doubt, the people have succeeded in bringing down a notoriously autocratic regime. And this was not in some remote corner of the world, but in Egypt, a nation that has been a key player in world history for the past six thousand years.
Popular revolutions have not always been successful in the long run, however. There are historical examples where a people’s revolution has been high jacked by a more organized elite. We need look no further than the Russian Revolution of 1917, or the German Revolution of 1918.
The masses must have leadership as well as passion. It would appear that the Egyptian people have the support of the military, at least for the present. However, let us not forget that those who overthrew the Kaiser in 1918 thought they, too, had the support of the generals. Their confidence turned out to be misplaced, and the German people were led to ruin by the pied piper with the Charlie Chaplain mustache.
The losers in this whole affair are perhaps easier to discern. Throughout the Arab nations, dictators are shaking, fearful of how their subjects will respond to the news from Egypt. And let us not forget the events that are still unfolding in Tunisia, where the Arab people’s revolt began. Israel, too, is very nervous, all the more so because American foreign policy in the Middle East is in disarray.
Will revolution spread to other autocratic regimes in the region? What about Iran? Will the Iranian people be inspired to once again challenge their own authoritarian masters? They toppled the Shah, could they not also topple the present regime? What will Israel do, if confronted with a similar challenge from the mass of Palestinians currently held down by force? And how would Washington respond to such a challenge?
The immediate future is very uncertain. But for the moment, people throughout the world are joining with the Egyptian people in Tahrir Square in rejoicing.
Until the next time, be good to all God’s creation, and always live under the mercy.