(Noam’s Notes) Charngchi Way: The Egyptian uprising has been going on for two weeks, and the situation is fluid. Can you give us your assessment of the latest developments?
Noam Chomsky: Well, it’s a spectacular event. In fact, I can hardly think of anything like it. On the other hand, the Egyptian elite and the military, who are pretty closely linked, seem pretty confident. The Obama administration is pretty much backing them up. And it looks as if they think they have a game plan that ought to work. Its the usual one, when you can’t support your favorite dictator, the natural fall back position is, ok, we’ll put him out to pasture somewhere, and try to restore pretty much the same situation. That’s the natural response. And that appears to be what they are doing.
I mean, it’s unlikely that they can keep Mubarak for the long term. He might want to stay, but its probably not gonna work. So what they are putting in is his clone, Omar Suleiman, who’s a torturer, the guy who ran the rendition program, very close to the CIA, he’s the interlocutor with Israel, you know, basically the same, maybe worse. And they are sticking to him. He is probably about as much disliked by the protestors as Mubarak is, and it looks as if they are just…. last thursday (Feb. 3, 2011) there was an organized attack on the crowds. They sent in gangs of organized thugs, the military stood aside and didn’t do anything. There was a pitched battle in the square. I was afraid that the next day there would be a bloodbath, but instead they withdrew the attackers and left them alone. And it looks like that was a warning, saying you know, be careful, we’ve got plenty of force if you get out of line. And they are now probably just turning to a strategy of waiting them out. Sooner or later the protesters won’t be able to continue. I think they are counting on the fact that the poor population, which is the overwhelming majority in Egypt, won’t be able to survive. No bread, you know, no milk, no money, nothing. There is a limit to how long they can tolerate it. And they’ll probably… there’ll be some…. not an uprising, but enough discontent, and maybe even anger at the protesters so that the army can then move in. And they are taking positions, you can see that they are just taking positions around the square, trying to get traffic moving again and so on, and they’ll take over and say, well, we have to, for the sake of stability and the future of our wonderful country, we’ve accepted the protester’s demands, you can go home. In fact they are already saying that, and now its over.
In fact, I hate to be cynical, but this morning in the New York Times, there was a report by Thomas Friedman, saying he was in Tahrir Square and it’s absolutely marvelous, you know, he is exulting, he loves it; I think that probably means he figures it’s over.
by Noam Chomsky