They're in charge but do they have any idea what to do next?
Who are the new uniformed leaders in Egypt? What are their ambitions and principles? Nobody really knows, perhaps not even Cairo insiders. Mubarak had ruled for 30 years, after all. He was a general officer himself, he treated the officer corps well, and the military's Supreme Council never had the chance to develop as an independent entity.
Now that they're untethered from their master, who can say what courses the officers will follow, what historic figures they might emulate. Will they be Washingtons, Trotskys, Pinochets-or something altogether different? As Deborah Amos, NPR's longtime foreign correspondent, who has spent many years in the Middle East, said this morning, "There's no script-no research on a leaderless revolution taking on an oligarch protected by a military establishment supported by an entrenched elite."The military always held the ultimate cards in this contest of wills between Mubarak and the street. At every turn, the officers and enlisted men sided with the street. The protesters could not have gone on without the assurance-or the hope-that this would remain the case. Few crowds, however brave, can withstand the force of one tank firing a few shells.
Another is whether the military officers now in charge will transform the political revolution, which has just taken place, to a social revolution, which many of the young protesters want. That is, will the tumult stop with a mere changing of the guard-or will the military jump-start the creation of a civil society, with real political parties, trade unions, a free press, a thriving middle-class, and all the rest.
It is difficult to see at this point if the army will clear out once elections are held and assume a subservient role in a new Egyptian society. Given the army's penetration into the economy and government, it seems improbable that they will just fade into the background.
The media is celebrating the "success" of the Egyptian revolution. Let's hope the army doesn't make liars out of them in a few months.