Contrary to the pessimism expressed by both Philip Klein and Aaron Goldstein, I’m hopeful that Hosni Mubarak’s televised speech — declaring that he will not seek re-election in September, but vowing to remain in power until then — may have ceded enough to defuse the current crisis in Egypt.
Yes, the protesters in Cairo and other major cities were dissatisfied with the speech, shouting “Leave! Leave!” and “Not Enough!” but Mubarak wasn’t speaking to them. Rather, he was speaking to the 70 million or so Egyptians who haven’t participated in the protests. And he was appealing to them in explicitly patriotic terms.
“The Hosni Mubarak who speaks to you today is proud of his achievements over the years in serving Egypt and its people,” he said during his speech, “This is my country. This is where I lived, I fought and defended its land, sovereignty and interests, and I will die on its soil.”
Such an appeal may undermine popular support for the protests and, without popular support, the protest leaders’ demands for Mubarak’s immediate departure would be unlikely to win the day.
Just as the uprising that led to this crisis was sudden and unexpected, its denouement may prove unpredictable. The most encouraging development today was the report that Egypt’s top military officer, Lt. Gen. Sami Enan, may emerge as a key figure in the nation’s post-Mubarak future. It could be, as John Guardiano said Saturday, that the prestige of the army and its leaders will ultimately save Egypt from chaos or a radical revolution.
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