Thursday, February 3, 2011

Day 2 of Egyptian Violence

This morning, the news from Egypt is that there were more street demonstrations and clashes at Tahrir Square between pro- and anti-Mubarek government groups. Five dead, over 800 wounded, depending on sources. However, though it’s the second day of violence, the general tenor of the street clashes (subjective though it may be) seems to be that the bloodshed is not increasing.

The violence started yesterday, when after several days of relatively peaceful protest in Cairo’s center, pro-Mubarek supporters in civilian garb (some military in disguise?—possible, though not confirmed) were brought in on Wednesday, and began to clash with the anti-Mubarek demonstrators.

International responses have been “outraged” at the violence perpetrated by the pro-Mubarek forces. (Notice how political leadership is always so outraged when street violence in a country not their own is violently countered by pro-government forces? Whenever it’s home grown violence, the protestors/instigators—no matter how just their cause—are violently repressed by these selfsame leaders in the name of “restoring order”.)

Meanwhile, the Egyptian military is edging ever closer to supporting the regime. At this point, it really does seem that they are using the street protestors to undermine the Mubarek regime, and enhance their own position.

Will there be a military crack-down on the violence? Possibly yes, if the violence continues unabated. At this time—Thursday morning in the U.S., 2pm in Cairo—the military has no legitimate excuse to take the streets violently. If the protests turn really violent tonight in Cairo, then they well might.

Bottom line, President Hosni Mubarek is looking more and more illegitimate. He has said that he will not seek reelection in September, and that his son—who was being groomed to take over—will also not seek office. But he is still in power.

The protests and clashes are a distraction at this point: One way or another, they will end shortly, either petering out, or violently repressed by the military. Food and fuel shortages—which are beginning to affect the vast majority of the population—will make it necessary before the weekend is out for order to be restored.

The issue now is whether the Egyptian military will stay and support a diminished Mubarek regime through September, and then support a replacement regime (led by the current vice-president), or whether they will assume power—and thereby put themselves in the firing line of international “outrage”.

The next few days will tell us.

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