As the great philosopher Axl Rose (almost) sang, where do we go now, Egypt, where do we go? Yesterday, Hosni Mubarak was forced out of power, an event which was followed by amazing scenes in Tahir Square where hundreds of thousands of Egyptians have protested over the last few weeks. Most revolutions have this glorious moment when some hated leader is ousted by "the people." It is a fairly amazing sight; many protests turn out badly in repressive regimes and the ousting of dictators tends to be the exception rather than the rule. As one who appreciates liberty and democracy enough to study such things, I do hope the best for these people in their efforts, but I am also aware of the dangers ahead. Tearing down Mubarak was actually the easy part. Securing a free nation without falling into anarchy or tyranny (or maybe even both) will be a challenge.
The problem lies in the fact that there is no real plan of action now. For the last three weeks, Egyptians were united by an opposition to Mubarak, a fairly simple and not surprisingly controversial position for most Egyptians to take. But Mubarak is gone now; ironically, the glue that held the protesters together has also been removed.
Now comes the most difficult part of the journey. Egypt must create a new government, but how will they go about doing this? There are no real leaders in a position to create a new constitution save for the Army that produced Mubarak. It seems highly unlikely that they will be willing to give the people much more than they have now, as all concessions would come at the expense of the Army itself. The only other group that seems large enough and well organized appears to be the Egyptian Brotherhood, an option that strikes me as even worse. Can Egypt produce a Jefferson, an Adams, a Franklin, a Hamilton or a Madison right this minute, and even if they can, will they be allowed to create a government? I highly doubt it.
In all honesty, I doubt very much that the interim government will make significant changes. I have been much less enthusiastic about these protests than many others for this reason (though I have to admit I thought Mubarak would play his hand better than this). The fun, romantic revolution is over, but the revolution is not complete until liberty has been secured under a functioning government that respects the rights of all people. Creating such a government is among the most difficult tasks mankind has ever faced. I hope, by the grace of God, that the Egyptians will manage it, but I would not bet on it.
If I was an Egyptian, I am not even certain what I would want. The singular goal seemed to have been the removal of Mubarak. Well, they have their wish. What now? What do the protesters want and will their be such unanimity with the new goals? Many of us have been on pins and needles wondering how the protests would turn out, whether Mubarak would somehow tough it out or be removed. We have the answer, but now the really chaotic part begins. Outside of the really broad strokes I have already said, I don't dare venture a guess as to how the next few months and years will turn out.
Best of luck, Egypt. You will need it.