Unwillingly, and with his tin ear almost petulantly on display, Hosni Mubarak has bowed to the courageous protesters who in 18 days have brought him down after nearly 30 years of iron rule.
In Egypt, and across the Arab world, there is now no reason why western principles and pragmatism should be aligned – at long last.
Stunned by the vigour of the youthful protests that toppled the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia and have now unravelled the Mubarak dictatorship, Washington, London, Paris and Berlin have all wobbled and waffled. Barack Obama’s administration began by describing Egypt, and its alliance with President Mubarak, as “stable”. After 10 days of turmoil, it called for an “orderly transition”.
Then, dismayed and wrong-footed by Mr Mubarak’s defiant refusal to stand down on Thursday night, President Obama sharpened his tone. “The Egyptian government must put forward a credible, concrete and unequivocal path toward genuine democracy, and they have not yet seized that opportunity”. That was, just in time, the right place to be.
Mr Mubarak and his allies had blustered about “foreign diktats”. The floundering regime had variously accused Hamas and Zionists – those inseparable allies – of being behind the uprising. That could never shield him from the hunger for freedom of his people – and they know who they are.
This Nile Revolution portends huge uncertainty. Western capitals fear that the great boulder that has just landed in the stagnant pool of Arab despotism will set waves coursing across the region. Instability is the new certainty. But opportunity is boundless, and if the west wishes to recover its standing in the Arab world it must stay firmly on the side of freedom.
It is not just that western support for autocracy and indulgence of the corruption of Arab rulers is morally indefensible. Such a policy cannot deliver long-term stability. It breeds extremism and, in extremis, failed states. The longer corrupt and dictatorial regimes stay in power, the more likely it is that the most reactionary strains of Islamism will come to the fore.
It is a miracle that, in spite of the Faustian bargain the US and Europe struck, colluding in an Arab Exception to democracy, there is still strong support for the universal values championed by the west. The young insurgents of Egypt are claiming these for themselves, and deserve support and respect. These were dignified and moving protests by the most dynamic sectors of Arab society.
Until now, they have had scant support from a west bamboozled by rulers who claimed the only alternative to their tyranny was the obscurantism of the mullahs.
That spell may have broken, giving the west the chance to get behind a new era of freedom.
近期，年轻人主导的抗议活动先后推翻了突尼斯的本?阿里(Ben Ali)政权和埃及的穆巴拉克独裁统治。华盛顿、伦敦、巴黎和柏林方面在震惊之下，出现立场摇摆，拿不定主意。巴拉克?奥巴马(Barack Obama)政府最初将埃及以及美国与穆巴拉克总统的联盟形容为“稳定”。经过10天的动荡后，美国方面呼吁进行“有序过渡”。