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Posted at 1:01 PM ET, 02/11/2011

It's official: A revolution in Egypt

By Stephen Stromberg

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has resigned. His vice president, Omar Suleiman, announced Friday that the dictator of 30 years will not complete his current term. Suleiman also said that Mubarak ceded control of Egypt to the military. As I've written about the tumult in Egypt, I've avoided the term "Egyptian revolution." Now, it's not overstatement to use it.

But now, also, the hard part begins.

"This is the beginning; not the end," were the words al Jazeera translated live from sources all over Egypt Friday. Regardless of politics, every Egyptian faces an uncertain political transition. The military has behaved cautiously so far, neither crushing the protests nor forcing Mubarak out quickly. Friday morning, even, its leaders said that they would support Mubarak's perseverance in office until September, at which point the military would guarantee free elections and lift the emergency law -- even as the lower ranks stationed in Cairo's streets seemed to back the protesters who objected to this arrangement. The generals' preference seems to have been to avoid provoking the instability that would follow a bloody crackdown or the hasty removal of a long-entrenched political elite.

Television reports out of Egypt indicate that the military is now embracing the revolution, commencing an ambitious rewrite of the constitution, toppling, as one statement put it, "the whole corrupt system." Mohammed ElBaradei, a prominent opposition leader, is now talking of a transitional government with military and civilian representation that would prepare the country for elections in a year's time.

Will the military make good on its promises? On whom will it call to refashion the country's political structures? Will the generals ultimately prefer a fleeting sense of stability to genuine political reform? What will they do with the thugs who surrounded Mubarak?

Even if the military does everything right, deep divisions among anti-Mubarak forces will emerge. The Muslim Brotherhood is the most organized opposition group, but it's probably -- and one hopes -- not representative of the majority of protesters. Strong, secular leaders haven't established themselves yet. Can functioning, civilian political institutions effectively organize themselves quickly in a country in which civil society has been suppressed for years? If not, will the subsequent political dealing be considered legitimate?

As for America, it has had a good relationship with the Egyptian military. But what influence will it really have to encourage secular democrats in the country? Should it be seen doing so? And what will Egypt's new civilian leadership, assuming it has one soon, think of the United States after years of American cooperation with Mubarak?

It's time to revel in the jubilation of the crowds in Tahrir Square. But there is still danger ahead.

By Stephen Stromberg  | February 11, 2011; 1:01 PM ET
Categories:  Stromberg  | Tags:  Stephen Stromberg  
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The term, "Revolution", should not be cheapened. The military has been the real power in Egypt since Nasser took over in 1952; what has ultimately changed? Will there be full and free allowance of political parties and the development of political institutions and economic openness? It is yet to be written...

Posted by: RobtBrock | February 11, 2011 1:17 PM | Report abuse

As the US has for 30 years been an ardent supporter of dictatorship in Egypt, your question "but what influence will it really have to encourage secular democrats in the country?" is rather ironic.

Posted by: darkglobe5 | February 11, 2011 1:48 PM | Report abuse

At 4:42 today one can see how truly pointless, and
stupid Strobrogerg is.

Just another israel firster who cannot...CANNO, genetically see what decent peoples do. No war? No grabbing? No
plans to take over everything? Can't
process that.

Posted by: whistling | February 11, 2011 4:44 PM | Report abuse

With even a slight light thru the door, the Russians and Chinese will be there, looking to extend their hegemony, too. The reason we originally began sending $1.2 Billion a year to Egypt in the first place, was to keep the Russians out of there. You know the routine. Countries are either part of the large power play who control others thru gifts, war, sanctions, business, etc. or, they are recipients (minions) who try to make a good deal into the fold of one of the big powers and at the same time try not to tick off the other ones.

Posted by: cbenedon | February 11, 2011 4:55 PM | Report abuse

All I'm sure of at this point is that all the wrong words are being used: freedom, elections, revolution, etc. What I'm looking for: limited government, secular society, religious tolerance, stability.

Posted by: rusty3 | February 11, 2011 5:36 PM | Report abuse

I suggest the people of Egypt look closely at the Iranian revolution and make sure what happened there doesn't happen to them. If the current Iranian government has plenty of money to take care of poverty yet does virtually nothing to solve it, what's going to happen in Egypt? It doesn't have anywhere near the money Iran has.

Posted by: LuckyGrad68 | February 11, 2011 6:15 PM | Report abuse

It's official, a MILITARY COUP in Egypt!

Posted by: pilsener | February 13, 2011 11:10 AM | Report abuse

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