Shock and awe – but no resignation in Cairo


Shock and awe acquired a new meaning today!   We learned that phrase from descriptions of a modern air force bringing all of its great might and technological power to bear on a much smaller, much less sophisticated military and civilian opponent.  In may be an apt metaphor, we have thought for the last couple of weeks that social media, wireless communication and 21st century technology was lined up against 20th century dementia and the outcome was certain.  The Egyptian people and most of the western world had convinced itself that facebook, twitter and mass demonstrations could  and would certainly bring Hosni Mubarak to his knees. Every major news agency in the world sat in neutral today, motors running, just waiting to broadcast to the world the wonderful news – the people have won!  I too, sat as the rest of the world did, I was watching Al Jazeera and the jubliant crowd – knowing (it had been hinted by the state information agency and by the army), that soon Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak was give up, walk away from government and allow the “will of the people’ to take over.  By now, everyone knows that is not what happened.

Mubarak will not leave, he will continue to “shoulder my responsibility” until the coming election in September; he will guarantee the safety and security of a fair and honest election to choose a new government – he promised to protect the people and prosecute those who injured Egyptians, he proposed some constitutional changes and he promised to remain and die in Egypt.  Mubarak did however delegate additional power to the vice president;  some time after the president’s speech the vice president spoke.  Omar Suleiman reinforced what Mubarak had said and then he said Egypt would “trust in god and the army.” Suleiman told everyone it was time to go home and go back to work; “the country needs your hands; let’s join hands.”

That sounds pretty clear to me, god and the army are on Mubarak’s side.  If the army agrees with the government and not the people, it will guarantee a return to normalcy – and that does not bode well for future demonstrations – millions of people hanging out in public squares for days on end is not a state of normalcy.  Optimism and hope are strange animals – just the fact the large numbers of people gathered singing, chanting and dancing with hope many, many people including the dancers believed that Hosni Mubarak was going to cease being Hosni Mubarak.  Why would anyone believe that?  Except for our desire for change and our enthusiasm what evidence existed that Mubarak would cease being the man he was?  None.

I got a lesson in basic personal characteristics from Mead Dixon when I was interviewing him for “Playing the Cards that are Dealt.”  He said when picking someone for a job first figure out what their “mother tongue” is; Mead defined mother tongue as the primary academic discipline or career field – he said that person would always default to that position.  It was the reason he chose Phil Satre, a lawyer to lead Harrah’s into Atlantic City instead of a person with a casino background.  Mead said the job required someone who could deal law, not craps; Satre is the person that lead Harrah’s to being the biggest company in the industry.  There are other examples, one I learned when my stepfather was in the veteran’s hostipatl off and on for the last 25 years of his life; no one ever clearly understood what was wrong or “healed” him. But he did get a new doctor periodically and surprisingly each doctor always finds a disease that fit his specialty.  I other occasions to use that principle, in one, an investigating into the management of a major gaming company for some bondholders who were suing the company.  I researched the key executives background – it was the stock market – and I found the pattern.  The money that the bondholders said was missing was, it had been turned into stock options and then cashed out. Actually, I did not find the money, an account I was working with found the money, or at least its inky trail.

I have no idea what will happen next, but I don’t think anyone is going to change who they are – any change that happens will happen because of a shift in power, not a shift in personality. Mubarak talked about his pride, his military accomplishments and his unwavering determination, (dating back to not just his administration, but [although he did not explicitly state it in these terms] through Anwar Sadat and Gamal Nasser).  And looking at him and listening to him speak, he is not like poor old Stanley Ho, a weak, tired old man being manipulated by people with a personal stake in the outcome; Mubarak looked like a man in his prime and a man ready for at least one more battle. He is more like an aging NFL quarter back who believes he can win one more Super Bowl than a man entering into senility.  To continue my metaphor, like Brett Farve I think you are going to have to sack Mubarak and take the ball away for Mubark to admit defeat; especially to something as far below his level of respect as a leaderless crowd. But I have been surprised more than once in the last few days.

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