Blow Up: Mubarak Resigns

Looks like September is coming early this year. Hosni Mubarak has resigned as president/autocrat of Egypt. And, as of today, he is being replaced by...the military. Uh, yay?

Egypt exploded with joy, tears, and relief after President Hosni Mubarak resigned as president, forced out by 18 days of mass protests that culminated in huge marches Friday on his presidential palaces and state television. The military took power after protesters called for it to intervene and oust their leader of three decades.

"The people ousted the regime," rang out chants from crowds of hundreds of thousands massed in Cairo's central Tahrir Square and outside Mubarak's main palace several miles away in a northern district of the capital.

The crowds in Cairo, the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and other cities around the country danced, chanted "goodbye, goodbye," and raised their hands in prayer in an ecstatic pandemonium as fireworks and car horns sounded after Vice President Omar Suleiman made the announcement on national TV just after nightfall.

"Finally we are free," said Safwan Abou Stat, a 60-year-old in the crowd of protesters at the palacer. "From now on anyone who is going to rule will know that these people are great."

Mubarak had sought to cling to power, handing some of his authorities to Suleiman while keeping his title. But an explosion of protests Friday rejecting the move appeared to have pushed the military into forcing him out completely. Hundreds of thousands marched throughout the day in cities across the country as soliders stood by, besieging his palace in Cairo and Alexandria and the state TV building. A governor of a southern province was forced to flee to safety in the face of protests there.

His fall came 32 years to the day after the collapse of the shah's government in Iran.

Obama is going to be making yet another speech later today. One hopes, but doubts, that he will eschew the "They are the ones they were waiting for" triumphalism and simply states what should be obvious: the military should prepare to hand the government over to civilian control, and the Muslim Brotherhood should be left out in the cold. But, no, I would expect it's going to be all "The people have spoken", "Facebook", "Twitter" "spirit of change" and "democracy." If anyone in the White House Press Corps manages to ask Obama why he was so gung ho to overthrow a US ally after remaining judiciously silent during an unambiguous freedom movement in the street of US enemies like Iran and Venezuela, we should be so lucky.

One thing I've seen mentioned around the horn is that the American response to the (still unfolding) Egypt crisis has "shattered the mystique" of omnipotent US intelligence and diplomacy in the region. I didn't realize that our image was so pristine. While Middle East politics is famously opaque, the metaphysical certitude with which our diplomatic and intelligence communities make pronouncements about what is going on in an alien society like Egypt has been much more of a hindrance than a help. At least Donald Rumsfeld was man enough to admit that there were things he didn't know, and that he would make decisions accordingly.

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