11A035 Hosni The Prince by Jim Davies, 2/4/2011    

Those of us who wish to see government eliminated from society have much to learn from Mubarak's game plan to stay put despite overwhelming public opposition - it would gladden the heart of Niccolo Machiavelli.

After the first few days of public protests it was very clear that what Egyptians wanted was his removal. That, naturally, is the last thing any government thug desires to hear. So notice what he did:

  1. He shuffled his cabinet. Message: I'm listening, I'm responding, I'm reasonable.
  2. He hobbled his adversaries' communications, by shutting down the Net and Al Jazeera
  3. He pulled his police off the streets. This was really clever, for in one move it took away the crowd's immediate opponents, and deprived some of them of protection (eg, shopkeepers from looting.)
  4. He enabled common thugs to escape from prison. Some of them invaded the Antiquities Museum. Clever, again; at the all-important margin of public opinion, it reduced support for the rebels, suggesting things have gone too far.
  5. He sent in the Army, but with orders to shoot only in self-defense. Message: the Army is me, see how reasonable I am. Again, erode support at the margin.
  6. He announced he will not run in the next election, 8 months hence. See, I'm giving you what you want! Another erosion of support for the rebels. Never mind that he's as trustworthy as a snake, and may renage on that promise as soon as he regains control; this is now.
  7. He sends in a crowd of supporters to do battle, to show that the crowd is not a monolith, that some do favor him. No doubt,they consisted of his police out of uniform, and assorted thugs, and his civil servants taking a day off; but it gave the world a powerful message - that some want him to stay.
  8. Some of them kill five demonstrators, for which his sidekick "apologizes", so that last trick may have mis-fired; he told Christiane Amanpour he was "fed up" and would "like to leave" but duty compels him to remain. Poor baby!

He wasn't holding a strong hand, last week, but he did have the loyalty of government employees needing a paycheck, especially those in uniform, and he played those cards with amazing skill. Today is said to be the "day of departure", but my guess is that this rebellion will fizzle; we'll soon see. Perhaps he will take an undefeated and honorable retirement in the Fall (aged 82, why not?) or perhaps he will try to perpetuate his reign - but this round, against heavy odds, I think he's won. No wonder they hate him so much.

We want not just to change régimes but to end them all, but here too Government employees are crucial. Those with uniforms and guns are obviously the most critical, but for government to evaporate peacefully they all have to be motivated to quit. The armed ones will be the last to go, but they will start heading for the exit when their support staff (janitors, payroll clerks...) say to take the job and shove it. Not even cops will work just for the enjoyment of bullying.

That process, here, is under way, and it's unstoppable. Are you part of it yet?

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