My new al-Masri al-Youm column, on the Mubarak health rumors and speculation about the future of Egypt, is here. An excerpt:
A more curious phenomenon stemming from the recent rumors is the intense (but vague) speculation about the future of the country. There is, it seems, a collective failure of imagination about what Egypt after Mubarak might look like. Most, focusing on the mechanism of succession, find a future shrouded in dense fog--as Mubarak wants it--and shrug over the uncertainty of what is to come. Others predict inner-regime strife to secure control of the presidency, and not an insignificant number warn of impending chaos, either because of widening social chasms or a power vacuum at the top. The more outlandish predict an alliance of the Muslim Brothers and Mohamed ElBaradei bringing about a new Iran-like rogue state. Yet, chances are nothing so dramatic will happen.
The reason for this is that Egypt, just like the banks that were rescued by governments in the US and Europe, is too big to fail. Its systemic importance to the conduct of international relations in the Middle East is just too great to let it become a “rogue state” or spiral into chaos--even assuming that this badly run but closely controlled country is anywhere close to implosion.