This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
For a while there Thursday – amid spreading rumors that Hosni Mubarak was about to step down – it almost looked as if Egypt were headed for a soft landing.
It was the worst possible set-up for yet another declaration by the Egyptian president that, no, he still intended to take his own sweet time before leaving office.
The popular uprising against Mubarak’s authoritarian regime has always held the potential of turning into something truly nasty – for Egypt, the Middle East and the rest of the world. That potential escalated when a vast crowd of deliriously excited Egyptian got their hopes raised, then dashed abruptly, within a single day.
Even a strongman needs people skills, and the 82-year-old Mubarak seems to have run out of his. All the more reason Barack Obama must do whatever he can to politely, diplomatically and gratefully nudge this old American ally toward the door.
This could still end well in a couple of ways.
One good way would be a responsible military intervention that shifts power from Mubarak’s cronies to a new, democratic, secular government. Another would be his ouster by those very cronies, assuming they are realists enough to know that their day is over, too.
In the Middle East, though, the smart money generally favors the worst outcomes. Those are pretty obvious here.
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