Friday, February 11, 2011

Floating Down Denial

Egypt’s President Mubarak apparently caught everyone — including his own army chiefs — off guard yesterday when he decided to hang on to whatever power he has left and basically told the world to fuck off. Adam Serwer has a concise summation of what this means for Egypt and the U.S.

The calls for the U.S. to forcefully demand Mubarak step down are going to grow louder–but the outcome in Egypt isn’t really within U.S. power to dictate. There’s also the fact that Mubarak was practically begging for that kind of outside condemnation from the U.S.–in his speech he declared that “We will not accept or listen to any foreign interventions or dictations.” He’s desperate for an outside enemy he can use to rally popular support or justify a crackdown. It’s possible he’s actually just baiting the protesters into doing something that will give him the pretext to react harshly.

There’s a really fine line the administration has to tread here. What they do next should be in the interest of making sure Mubarak steps down. But it’s not clear that what everyone will want them to do–publicly and forcefully demand he step down–will actually help that happen.

Not that it is all about us, but this turn makes the Obama administration look like they had no more an idea of what was going to happen than the people in Tahrir Square did. C.I.A. Chief Leon Panetta told Congress that he was sure that Mr. Mubarak would leave, and one would hope that the head of our intelligence agency would have some inside information about something like that.

One thing you can say with certainty is that no one really knows how this will turn out.