Making the mummies dance
Good gray NPR had this interesting item:
Plan To Replace Hosni Mubarak May Be In The WorksThis Stephen Cohen (not to be confused with the isonomous Brookings Institution South Asia guy) is an interesting character, a sleek plump catfish at home in some fairly murky waters. Obviously well seen in Israel, and among the neighboring stoogery -- just the sort of sketchy entrepreneurial figure that NPR would go to for "analysis." But even so, perhaps he actually knows whereof he speaks.
Two of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's closest allies, his new vice president, Omar Suleiman, and his defense minister, Hussein Tantawi, are quietly working on a plan under which Mubarak would step down from power, according to a U.S. scholar who has been staying in regular touch with the Egyptian political and military leadership.
"They want to be sure that Mubarak is going to cooperate," said Stephen P. Cohen, president of the Institute for Middle East Peace and Development and a longtime confidant of Egyptian and Israeli leaders.
The two-part plan, according to Cohen, would involve the immediate removal of 100 members of the Egyptian Parliament whose election this past fall was seen as illegitimate. They would be replaced by 100 candidates who were barred from running in the election or who were defeated because of government meddling in the election process.
A second possible step would be the organization of new parliamentary and presidential elections. The plan, according to Cohen, "requires [Mubarak] to give up his office." Asked whether Mubarak would do that, Cohen answered, "He is getting ready to do so."
It makes a certain amount of sense. The Egyptian uprising seems very focused, so far, on the person of Mubarak. Suppose Mubarak gone; the army still intact -- no conflict between the high command and the mid-level officers, much less the rankers. Does the steam then go out of the uprising? Do people go home and settle down to the status quo under new -- or almost-new, gently-used -- management?
The situation is like Iran in 1979, in some ways but not in others. Like Iran, it's a genuine mass movement. Like Iran, there's not a blessed thing the US can do about it if it really gets the bit between its teeth. Unlike Iran, there's no Khomeini, and no organizational network like his -- as far as I know. The somewhat geriatric Muslim Brotherhood doesn't seem like quite the same breed of cat, and it's been reported, accurately or not I don't know, that they're behind El-Baradei, hardly a transformative figure unless he turns out to be full of surprises.
I'm hedging against disappointment here, obviously.
But a few minutes ago I was watching the Al-Jazeera live feed from Cairo. It was about 7 AM there, and people were already assembling in Tahrir Square for the planned march to the presidential bunker. The fresh dawn light on the homely apartment buildings; the people already up and milling around in the square, wondering what comes next, and realizing that anything could come next; that the old rules don't apply; that the cops are gone, melted into the woodwork, and the streets are theirs, to do with as they will; that what does come next might depend on me or the stranger next to me or somebody who is still on his way after a hurried breakfast. Sunrise, and the freedom of the streets, and the future utterly unknown.
To borrow a phrase from Philip Sidney, I felt my battered sclerotic old heart stirred as with the sound of a trumpet.