The Egyptian people have won a startling and historic victory. It is perhaps the most difficult thing in the world to do, to force a Pharaoh from the palace, but they did it, and without bombs.
Now, though, comes a series of terrible challenges that could undo what the people have achieved. The Egyptian economy needs to grow at least seven percent a year to create the jobs necessary for the masses of underemployed, often-over-educated, young people who have been crowding the streets, and economic power is still in the hands of plutocrats and oligarchs, who are not terribly interested in reforming the system that has made them obscenely rich.
If economic power is in the hands of the oligarchs, political power now is in the hands of the military. In other situations, in other countries, what we've seen today is called a military coup. Egypt has no tradition of democracy, and a strong tradition of military leadership. The people, for the moment, seem to want the military. I don't think this will last. And because Hosni Mubarak spent 30 years marginalizing and banning secular parties and opposition movements, there is no obvious path toward representative democracy. I am not overly worried, for the moment, in the possibility of a Muslim Brotherhood takeover, but the fortunes of the Brothers could change quickly, and dangerously.
My apologies for being a downer, but Egypt's crisis has just begun.
And, by the way, American influence in the Middle East, already on the wane, just waned some more. More on that later.