This may be a little more muddle even than usual. I haven't read or watched too much on Egypt since early last evening. I've been dealing with the ice storm residue. I'll take snow over ice and slush any day. But...
...it occurs to me—from the snippet I caught from the hourly news headlines on PBS and elsewhere this morning—that the pro-Mubarak forces now clashing with the anti-Mubarak forces exemplify the classic right/left struggle.
There are probably some elements of the anti-Mubarak folks that are interested in gaining power for their own ideological reasons, The Muslim Brotherhood for instance. But the heart of the anti-Mubarak movement is made up of non-ideological people who had just had enough and when they saw what happened in Tunisia were inspired to attempt something similar, a peaceful ending to a corrupt dictatorship.
According to at least one news segment I saw, the person most responsible for the outpouring of citizens outrage at Mubarak is a single mother in her early thirties, an English teacher if I remember correctly, who with a tiny group of friends, only about ten, set up an operation in a small office to coordinate the protests.
The people at the protests, at least throughout most of the past several days, have mostly been ordinary folks, women in traditional Muslim garb and others in Western styles, young and old, even children and entire families. But their sentiments, as expressed in every interview I read and saw (which over the past several days must be close to a hundred at least) were reasonable, condemning Mubarak's rule and wanting nothing more than a less corrupt economy (where only the rich seem to benefit) and more freedom of movement and behavior.
The pro-Mubarak forces that have been attacking the peaceful demonstrators seem to obviously have been helped by the government. Being allowed to ride a horse or camel while carrying whips and other things that can be used as weapons into a peaceful crowd by folks who support a dictator whose regime would never tolerate such a thing before, seems like a set up.
It's obvious to me at least that Mubarak has been trying to set up the kind of chaos and failure of civil society that will lead to people calling on him to save the country. It didn't work in letting prisoners free and holding back security forces which encouraged looting etc., because ordinary people banded together and formed that human chain around the museum of Egyptian antiquities (and it was only after they did that the army came in to secure those buildings) or vigilante groups to protect their own neighborhoods from looters etc.
Mubarak could have stepped down and allowed a peaceful transition to an interim government until a democratically elected one could take over. But he has chosen not to, and under pressure from the USA and others has restrained his security forces (and possibly the army, which is more independent and may be refusing to allow itself to be used by Mubarak to crush the revolt ala Iran) and also probably went along with that to create the kind of chaos that would lead to his being seen as the only possible savior of the situation.
It was clear from his speech yesterday that he is hoping his concessions will take the steam out of the protests or if they don't then he'll restrain security forces and "allow" (I believe encourage and even fund and back) pro-Mubarak forces to attack what had been peaceful demonstrators. The old "us against them" divide-and-conquer tactic, which often intimidates ordinary people into wanting a peaceful resolution even if it is at the expense of the ideals they and changes they support.
On a much smaller scale, but even more significant, when Florida was still counting ballots to determine the outcome of the 2000 election, rightwing Republican strategists transported a bunch of their people, mostly men, to the scene where the votes were being counted and staged a mini-riot/demonstration as if they represented a popular movement to stop counting the votes and give the election to Bush junior. Unfortunately it worked, as it too often does.
The peaceful crowds that rejoiced when Obama was elected and were hoping for the kinds of changes mot polls show most "Americans" want, not unlike most Egyptians, i.e. a fairer economy, less expensive and more accessible healthcare, a more tolerant political atmosphere where entire groups—gays, Muslims, "liberals," racial minorities, immigrants, etc.—are not scapegoated, etc.
Obama and the Democrats failed to fulfill some of the promise of that transitional election, but they were immediately met with active and belligerent protests fueled by rightwing gazillionaires like the Koch brothers and by ideologically rightwing media, like Fox, as if the democratically elected government of our country had been taken over by a foreign power (the "birthers" etc.) or nefarious forces out to destroy our country (almost any rightwing commenter or politician) and succeeded in framing the argument in their terms rather than the duly elected administration's.
The right used force when it didn't get its way in the last presidential election, as demonstrated in by the shouting down and refusal to let elected officials speak at town hall meetings etc., and continue to advocate force to get their way, as demonstrated in all the statements from rightwingers about "second amendment rights" being necessary to stop Obama etc. (ala Bachmann et. al.). Even the far left has not been advocating force when they haven't gotten their way (at least since the early 1970s).
And the "liberal" position, as opposed to those who call themselves "conservatives" these days, has always been to use reason and discussion to resolve problem, political and otherwise. But how can there be reason when those who hold power, ala Mubarak, or refuse to accept that they don't, ala the right in this country post-2008, will say and often do anything to maintain or regain their side's hold on power.
This is what's happening in Egypt at this moment, (or at least as of the moment I began writing this post) and in our own country, where rightwing spokespeople like Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh have actually been making the argument that Obama is our Mubarak!
More will be revealed.
[PS: Just turned on the news and see that they are reporting, at least on MSNBC from reporters on the scene, that my suspicions were correct, the pro-Mubarak supporters now clashing with the peaceful anti-Mubarak forces have been bussed in by the government and allowed to carry weapons and incite violence (including at the moment fire bombs) to try and clear that main Cairo square ("Liberation Square") the way the Chinese brought in troops from rural China to attack the peaceful demonstrators in Tienanmen Square in '89. Mubarak doesn't seem to have that option since the army seems to be remaining mostly neutral, though allowing the pro-Mubarak forces to carry out physical attacks is a kind of side-taking...]