A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
January 30, 2011 White House Makes it Clear that Mubarak Must Go- Choas in Egypt as the Clock Seems to be Running out on the Regime
Events continue unfold in Egypt rapidly, it is thus very difficult to try to put the matters in perspective, at least on paper. That being said, I will try.
First, it seems clear the reign of Mubarak is over. That does not necessarily mean the rule of his regime is done, but whatever personal standing the Egyptian President had is no longer. The "back-up plan" seems to be to attempt to have Omar Suleiman, the former intelligence chief, who Mubarak named the new Vice President, to replace Mubarak.... and then control would be maintained by the same ruling class. Is that a potential outcome? Possibly. However, history is against that outcome. History has repeatedly shown that unless an army is willing to turn its guns, in the most repressive way, on the people rebelling against the government (which so far the Egyptian Army does not seem willing to do), then it is highly unlikely Mubarak's regime can remain.
There are all sorts of rumors circulating that Mubarak has a plan, but by the time you read this, I may be proved wrong, but I doubt such a plan could be workable. There is no question that the United States has made its preference for Mubarak to go clear. In a statement released by the White House, President Obama called to the leaders of Turkey, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UK to "support an orderly transition to a government that is responsive to the aspirations of the Egyptian people". A clear statement that Mubarak must go.
Frankly, I was surprised listening to Israeli media this afternoon... at their surprise to the American response. Many, almost directly, calling the US government's action stupid and shortsighted. What I found most distressing was not their policies views, which are valid, though probably not sustainable. What was deeply distressing was these commentators' total lack of understanding of America. Obama's action has engendered wide support. Senator McCain came out in support of Obama's actions this morning. The only significant criticism of Obama has been that he was not more outspoken in support of the demonstrators. The Israeli criticism of Obama questioned whether the Americans know how much worse things could become in Egypt? I think the US administration knows exactly how much worse things could become. Unfortunately the US had no choice but to take the positions it has taken. It was President Bush who pushed so hard for free elections in the Middle East. Elections have not been high on Obama's agenda for the area. The US cannot be seen trying to prop up a failed dictator. After Mubarak's speech on Friday night, when he failed to make any significant concessions, I think it became clear to the US government that there was no going back.
There can be three major outcomes to the events in Egypt. The first possible outcome, as I mentioned before, a new military dictatorship of some kind could emerge. In that case, the changes for both for the US and Israel will be minor. The second possible outcome would be true multi-party democracy emerging. Moderate parties would rule Egypt. In this case, one could expect a government that would not break ties with Israel, but would be more critical and look more like Turkey of today. Finally, there is a possibility of the Muslim Brotherhood coming to power. This would, of course, have disastrous consequences.
As to Israel, I never cease to be astounded at how short the Israeli strategic thinking is. On a tactical level Israeli intelligence was totally surprised by these events. On more basic level, there seems to be no understanding that a failure to reach an agreement with the Palestinians for such a long time is dangerous. Anyone who thought the Middle East was the one part of the world, other than China, where there would be no democracy, does not understands today's world. One additional factor that made some version of today’s events inevitable, is Egypt's failure to provide jobs for its nearly 15 million academic graduates. It has been educating its baby boom generation in increasingly larger numbers at its institutions of higher learning. However, those institutions are not well respected in the world. 70% of Egyptian university graduates who work are employed by the government. Unfortunately, a much larger number fail to find work. It's a generation, whatever the current political outcome of the moment, has very few hopes for the future.