The Wiles of Mubarak

Tonight's speech by Mubarak is a reminder of how much the course of a revolution against an autocracy is shaped by the personal quirks of the autocrat. Here are a few thoughts from my end what calculations or miscalculations might have been going through Mubarak's head...

* Tone-deafness: Mubarak genuinely thought that he could defuse the situation with a hat-tip to the protesters, and that his transfer of powers would satisfy the protesters. He may also have thought back to his Feb 2 address, where he stirred up some genuine sympathy and regained the initiative, and was trying to repeat the performance. However, he so badly mangled his speech, and struck such an arrogant tone, that he made things worse.

* Cussedness: Mubarak projected arrogance and intransigence so as to call the bluffs of everyone -- the protesters, the Americans, and presumably now the military -- who are pushing him to leave. Maybe he allowed expectations to be raised, so as to make the blow fall that much harder. If you can't get rid of me after this, he is saying, then you can't get rid of me until I'm ready to go. Show your hand, or give up.

* Worse is better: Mubarak wanted to stir things up, to provoke a march on the palace and possibly trigger some violence. The regime had its greatest success undermining the uprising when the situation was at its most unstable. The return to normalcy on the other hand this week provided the opportunity for people to come together in the workplace, remember what they really dislike about the stagnant and corrupt status quo, and go on strike. So, he thought he might end the normalcy, rekindle fears of long-lasting anarchy, and put pressure on the demonstrators to quit with what concessions they have already won.