The struggle for Arab democracy is now squarely focused on Egypt, with the intensity vastly hotter than that of the Tunisian, Lebanese, or Algerian chapters.
Cairo has shown the world this week that it is capable of massing impressive coercive force on the streets and willing to respond with harshness to avoid any compromise with the enemy (i.e., the people). The Egyptian people are to Cairo as the Palestinian people are to Tel Aviv. The issue here is simple: it’s not about civil rights or democracy or justice or employment; it is about power.
But for three days, the Egyptian people have been sending a message: they too have some power. A police station has been torched; a subway train halted; lawyers have started to join the brave young men. The Muslim Brotherhood has issued a warning. And a member of the elite, perhaps the world’s most famous Egyptian, has just returned to Cairo to support the opposition! Now, El Baradei is not Khomenei, but Mubarak certainly is the Shah. One felt momentum in Tien An Men and after Ahmadinejad’s reelection, all for naught. One felt momentum after Obama’s election, too. While I concur with Juan Cole that “Egypt is not Tunisia,” nevertheless there is in Egypt now a feeling of momentum. Egypt has moved in three days from stable to breathlessly poised on a sharp point.