As is true of many people around the world, I watch the unfolding Egyptian Revolution with hope, fear, trepidation, and hope again. As an American who lives in a country born of revolution, I often take for granted the freedoms I possess. I want the Egyptian people to have the same freedoms that I have, the same opportunities, and I grieve that these aspirations have been stifled by forces of fear and authoritarianism. Last night Tom Friedman appeared on Charlie Rose's show, and he spoke of the missed chances that Egypt has had. They could have been the Taiwan of the Middle East -- becoming a manufacturing sector on the Eastern Mediterranean. Egypt isn't an oil producer, so it depends on the Suez Canal, the Nile, Tourism, and history. It has the potential to become an economic power, but as Friedman noted, corruption, mismanagement, etc. have put the Egyptians at a disadvantage. It's not Islam that holds Egypt and the Arab world back. It is a fear of embracing the future that is holding them back.
So, we wait to see what comes next on what has been deemed "Departure Day." The crowds continue to stream into the central square in Cairo. The "pro-Mubarak" crowd has essentially dissipated, and the more joyous feeling that was seen earlier has returned. Mubarak seems willing to wait it out, and he may well be able to do so. Or, the Army may step in and create an interim government. The protesters are not in a position to take power. There is no one figure who can gather everyone together. At this point even the Muslim Brotherhood is ceding the stage to others -- could be a ploy or it could be a realization that despite their organization prowess, they don't have a majority of the people on their side. Yes, Iran wants to claim an Islamic style revolution similar to theirs, but there is no sign of this. Indeed, what is interesting is that there is almost no anti-American or anti-Western sentiment being expressed. No one is burning Uncle Sam in effigy. Indeed, you don't even seem much anti-Israeli sentiment. People want to live free, normal, lives. They want their government to be responsive to their needs. (Sound familiar?)
It is unfortunate that President Mubarak has gotten it in his mind that he is the sole buttress against chaos. It is clear that he has been in power too long and that he believes his own myths. The buttress against chaos isn't Mubarak, it's likely the Army. The Army has been the one institution in Egyptian life that has continued to have the respect of the people. My sense (and I have no proof) is that the Generals are looking at the situation and deciding whether to stay with Mubarak or not. If they think their future is better off without Mubarak, Mubarak is gone.
So, we wait, wondering what will happen next. Hoping that this revolution ends better than most -- either in failure or radicalization.