As we enter day seven of the chaotic protests in Egypt, there are, I think, only two options for the endgame:
1. The end of the Mubarak regime and a real change of government, or
2. A crackdown ala Tiananmen Square that sees Mubarak and his government survive, followed by no immediate change in government policy.
This is not necessarily the death throes of the Egyptian government, as Robert Fisk has put it. Mubarak could still survive with a massive crackdown. But I think the results are polar, and I don’t think that Mubarak’s government can survive intact under this type of massive public pressure if it agrees to major reforms. Or to quote the 19th century observation of Tocqueville:
The most dangerous moment for an evil government is when it begins to reform itself… the sufferings that are endured patiently as being inevitable, become intolerable the moment it appears that there might be an escape. Reform then only serves to reveal more clearly what still remains oppressive and now all the more unbearable.
What can we say if the Mubarak regime falls? Many would say it is a welcome development. That a corrupt and oppressive sham government should fall and be replaced by something more sensible is surely good news. But here are my concerns:
* Egypt’s current government is secular and based on its Arab Nationalist origins. A replacement government could be fundamentalist and dangerous to many countries in the region.
* Egypt’s Christians, a sizable minority of the 80 million or so people in Egypt, have been under increasing pressure and the target of attacks in recent years.
* Egypt fundamentally recognizes Israel and has an open border with the state.
Even if a new government is not Islamist or fundamentalist, local Christians and Israel could both be easy targets in a new government that needs to increase its popularity when the public realizes that a new government cannot provide easy fixes. That is possibly the greatest danger in a change of power to a new regime.