Sometimes, A Miracle
Well, after my last post expressed concern that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was maneuvering the protesters who had challenged his three-decade rule into a corner, things developed quite rapidly. They came to a head last Friday as Mubarak — who had made a fiery speech refusing to step down just the day before — abdicated his office.
And so far, thankfully, none of the nightmare scenarios that those of us who care about Egypt worried about have come to pass. At first it appeared that Mubarak’s departure would leave his hand-picked successor, intelligence chief Omar Suleiman in charge, who could very well have turned out to be just as dangerous for the prospects of Egyptian democracy as Mubarak was; but when Mubarak fled, the Egyptian military stepped in and took control, and ever since then Suleiman has been conspicuously absent from the stage. The military’s action also headed off the risk of anarchy, at least for now. And there’s no indication so far that the spirit of the Egyptian revolution will necessarily lead to a militant Islamic state or the re-emergence of Egypt as a threat to Israel and the stability of the Middle East, either. (On those latter points, of course, we’ll only know the true shape of things to come with time. But the early indicators are all hearteningly positive.)
So there’s a lot to be thankful for today, both for the Egyptian people and the people of the world. A situation that could have gotten very ugly very fast was instead resolved peacefully, thanks to the courage of millions of everyday people. (And, it must be said, the willingness of Hosni Mubarak to finally go quietly rather than try to hang onto power at the point of a gun. Plenty of autocrats have failed to realize their day was up in the past.)
In short, the shape of what Egypt is to become is still up in the air. But there’s room today to imagine it becoming — finally — a place where peace and democracy are no longer incompatible options. And that’s a prospect to be thankful for.