Mubarak Steps Down: Now What?
Now That Mubarak Has Stepped Down, What Next for Egypt?
Tonight is a night of celebration in Egypt, as citizens from all walks of life celebrate the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. When Vice President Omar Suleiman announced that Mubarak would step down, shouts of anger turned to cheers. But what now?
As noted earlier, Egypt's army is in charge in the country, and has dissolved Parliament. Sooner rather than later, some consensus must be reached as to whom they want as a new leader, and which direction they want their new country to go. It's easy to predict that the Egyptian people will want to strip the secret police of their power, and possibly go after Hosni Mubarak's assets.
What about Egypt's relationship with the US? Egypt received roughly $2 billion in aid from the United States, but most of that went straight to the military. Will that same military be willing to risk that arrangement by changing Egypt's relationship with the US?
What role does the US hope to play now? Washington will have to find a way to reach the Egyptian on the street, as Mubarak's influence was not the only thing that was just snuffed out in Cairo. This was a Berlin Wall moment for Egypt, and everyone knows it. An entrenched government was overthrown peacefully, and not driven by either military force or religious extremism, a rarity for the region.
Also, the possibility of an actual democracy in Egypt is not necessarily what the US wants, despite the White House's public statements: dictatorships are predictable, and the US needs more than one friend in the Middle East. This doesn't mean democracy is impossible, though.
In the very short term, the military will avert mob rule. What happens, though, when it's time to give up control?
The full implications of what amounts effectively to a military coup in the most populous and pivotal Arab state are not yet clear. Egyptians do not yet know which soldiers will sit on the new ruling council, or what their plan of action is. But one of the ironies of this revolution is that for the leaderless, many-stranded protest movement, which united solely in wishing to rid their country of Mr Mubarak and in the aim of forging a real democracy, a period of military rule appears in many ways the best possible outcome.
As US President Barack Obama said, "The whole world has taken note." Most of the talking heads on TV are agreeing that the rest of the region's regimes are more at risk today than they were yesterday. However, none are saying that democracy is guaranteed, as that is simply not the case.
He said he had seen birth, that he had seen marriage, but he had never seen happiness like this, and it is everywhere. This is sublimely powerful stuff. It may be the most powerful stuff.
I admit that I am more than a little tempted to rain on the parade and note that Mr Mubarak's departure guarantees nothing and that it is not unreasonable to fear a turn for the worse.