"The most important event in the Middle East in decades"
"Not since the Berlin Wall came down..."
"Echoes of the change in South Africa"
"The Berlin Wall is an appropriate analogy in terms of the impact on the region."
"We are witnessing history unfold."
Mubarak is going to speak tonight. Mubarak is stepping down.
As I write, it is night in Cairo. There are crowds flooding the main square waving huge Egyptian flags. The scene: an eerie glow as seen from the television cameras, dark but an orange glow lowlights the excitement that has grown in the last few moments. Cell phones, tweets, texting through the Liberation Square delivers news, rumors, delirium.
The big guns are anchoring the news coverage. The best of the best outside experts have been called in to comment.
To say nothing of the irrepressible and unreplacable Richard Engel reporting on the ground.
Now, everyone in the news world and everyone else in the world has opined on this situation and will, whether or not their information is accurage. The U.S. Intelligence Chief just testified before Congress that the Muslim Brotherhood is a largely secular organization, for example. As Richard Engel just reminded, that's not true. So clearly we don't know as much as we need to know. Should know.
So you hardly need to hear from me. But there is one thing I want to say. Just a moment, please.
Mubarak will speak tonight. The crowd is waiting. The crowd is growing. The square is floodlit. The people have spoken and they are ready to be vindicated. The have sacrificed more than we will ever know. And suffered more than we can imagine, not as much during these 17 days as before. They found their power and are using it. They are celebrating victory even before it is certain. Almost certain.
"We are witnessing history unfold...because the people...want their voices to be heard...A moment of transformation... We will do everything...to assist an orderly transition to democracy..." (President Obama)
About the Berlin Wall moment.
All hail the fall of the Berlin Wall. I remember, you probably remember watching. There's a chunk of it on my desk. Perhaps yours too. What a moment, what a day, what giddy wild days.
BUT. You should know this is coming. Poland. Let's remember why the Berlin Wall fell.
Poland was first.
A Roundtable. Talks. The opposition and the entrenched. Grinding it out. For weeks. A Roundtable in Warsaw. Concessions that rankle some still today. Did the opposition give too much? Did the opposition become compromised? Was there too much mixing and mingling? This is what often happens. The public eventually looks with suspicion upon those of the opposition who worked out the democratic transition, tinged, tainted as they are by what rubs off from the outgoing communist leaders.
Oh dear, so easy for me to get carried away. Another day.
What I wish to contribute to this discussion is simple. And complex. It may be obvious but to the mass of onlookers it likely is not.
This is not over when Mubarak comes out, as we expect, and announces his departure. It is not over tonight or tomorrow night, when a transition government takes over.
And this is the thing. It will not be over in twenty years. It will not be over in our lifetimes. The transformation the people in Egypt seek is democratic, they want a democracy. And that will mean awkward, uncomfortable wrangling, compromise, even accusations among the various segments of this new democracy about who was what in the ancien regime, who is too heavily identified and who was invested in the old government.
Poland was first.
Poland was first. Forgive me if I sound defensive of this lost point. Before the Berlin Wall was torn down, a Roundtable yielded results, then a quiet election in Poland six months before the Wall went kaput set the tone for all that occurred throughout the Soviet bloc. Ironically, the quiet Polish election occurred on the very same day as the massacre in Tianamen Square. Two very different attitudes and approaches to transformation.
And now a third wave, a "tectonic change" in the Middle East as the people in the streets have given voice to the longing and to their commitment to self-governance. Egypt style. No quiet pen and crumbling wall. No tanks crushing the rebellion. But this time, according to all reports at noon MST, it will be a steady persistent presence of protesters that accomplishes the change.
And the changing will go on and on and on. For years. And years.
Mubarak is going to speak tonight.