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NYT: Up With Egypt

Author: Thomas L. Friedman
February 8, 2011


In this New York Times Op-Ed, Thomas L. Friedman explains that the revolt in Tahrir Square is simply about people fed up with being left behind in a world where they can see how far others have vaulted ahead.

Just when you think the Egyptian uprising is dying down, more Egyptians than ever waited in long lines on Tuesday to get into Tahrir Square to ask President Hosni Mubarak's regime to go. One reason the lines get so long is that everyone has to funnel through a single makeshift Egyptian Army checkpoint, which consists of an American-made tank on one side and barbed wire on the other. I can never tell whether that tank is there to protect the protesters or to limit the protesters. And that may be the most important question in Egypt today: Whose side is the army on?

Right now Egypt's respected army is staying neutral — protecting both Mubarak's palace and the Tahrir revolutionaries — but it can't last. This is a people's army. The generals have to heed where the public is going — and today so many Egyptians voted with their feet to go into Tahrir Square that a friend of mine said: “It was like being on the hajj in Mecca.”

The army could stick by Mubarak, whose only strategy seems to be to buy time and hope that the revolt splinters or peters out. Or the army could realize that what is happening in Tahrir Square is the wave of the future. And, therefore, if it wants to preserve the army's extensive privileges, it will force Mubarak to go on vacation and establish the army as the guarantor of a peaceful transition to democracy — which would include forming a national unity cabinet that writes a new constitution and eventually holds new elections, once new parties have formed.

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