After mostly standing aside while pro-Mubarak counter-protesters turned violent, the Egyptian Army now says it’s prepared to fire on pro-government protesters if they continue acting violently. And the PM has apologized for and denounced the violence. Those are good signs, especially as it means the military is still supporting the people, but is not going so far as to prevent peaceful pro-government demonstrations.
Of course it appears most of the pro-government protesters are either police who’ve ditched their uniforms and thugs who are being paid to do the one thing they most enjoy. And at least for the moment–and situations like this have a way of changing from moment to moment so it can hard to make any firm longer-range statements–it looks as though the violence was nothing more than a failed effort by the government to intimidate the protesters. And I emphasize the word intimidate. There is no Tienanmen Square type mass execution and no Iranian-style mass security control of public spaces to keep people from gathering. And the key reason it was a weak effort instead of either of those types of outcomes (so far) is because of the military.
This is fascinating. In developing countries with political instability, militaries usually either are tools of the government used to oppress the people or themselves stage coups to take power. In this case, the military is solely acting to ensure non-violence. Maybe it’s a bit facile to say this, but instead of taking either a pro or anti government stance, the military seems to be taking a pro Egypt stance, concerned about the country, rather than it’s current regime.