Mubarak Just Does Not Get it

02/10/2011 06:13 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

So delusional Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has become that, during his speech to the nation, he said "it is not about my person." He is wrong. His speech caused more frustration and will invite more chaos on the country. The question to Mr. Mubarak is: How many million Egyptians should take to the streets for him to say two simple words: I quit?

Instead, Mubarak, in a typical speech by an Arab autocrat, rambled about his love of Egypt, how the future of Egypt is at stake and how foreigners were concocting conspiracies to undermine the country. Even worse, Mubarak made it sound as if the two weeks of rallying were his idea, and promised that the ongoing Egyptian revolution will pay off. But he will stay.

So out of touch Mubarak has become that he talked about committees that he had formed to bring to justice the perpetrators of the crimes that resulted in the death of demonstrators, as if the murderers in Tahrir Square acted without orders from the regime that Mubarak heads.
So out of touch Mubarak has become that he rambled about constitutional amendments and cited article numbers, as if the millions who are in the street know the difference between Article 77 and Article 179.

With his out-of-touch speech, did the Egyptian president expect the hundreds of thousands of Egyptians to feel good? Or go back home? The answer is a resounding no.

Mubarak has lost touch with reality long time ago. Even an Arab-American like me in Washington could tell that the Egyptian president's speech would bring more frustration -- and hence more people to the streets -- than defuse the crisis.

Mubarak does not care. He believes his confidante-turned-Vice President Omar Suleiman will still be able -- through meaningless negotiations with so-called opposition leaders who mostly represent themselves only -- to go back in time to when Mubarak, Suleiman and a bunch of ruling security officers could run the country.

Perhaps it takes being an Arab, a citizen not an official, to realize that whatever Washington, Cairo or other world capitals are planning for an "orderly" transition of power means little to Egyptians in the streets.

The word "transition," the favorite in Washington these days, suggests that power should be "passed on" from whoever rules Egypt now to whoever should take over tomorrow. The word "orderly," the second favorite with American officials, suggests that the current rulers of Egypt -- Mubarak or his cronies like Suleiman -- will negotiate the transfer of power.

What American officials, and many other officials in the region, do not understand is that the Egyptian rallies are not "orderly" in the first place. Protestors have no plans to take power over from Mubarak. These protestors are "spontaneous," and expect to see "fundamental" change.

A final note to some American, and maybe Israeli, politicians: The Egyptian rallies are not about you. There has been no burning of American, Israeli or effigies of US Presidents because the Egyptians in the streets are not interested in politics per se. They do not fear that the Muslim Brotherhood will create an Islamic republic either. The Egyptians want change. Washington and other world capitals want "measured change" that can fit their interests, something that Egyptians are not thinking of right now.

Mubarak should go. His regime should go too. Here is an idea on how to handle this "radical" change and send Egyptians back home, in an orderly manner. Ask Mubarak or Suleiman to give dates for change. Assign dates for parliamentary and presidential elections. Let the new parliament supervise the formation of a cabinet. The new cabinet and parliament will see to it that constitutional amendments will take place.

Tell Egyptians on the streets that Emergency Laws will be removed the minute they go back home, not "when circumstances permit."

The Egyptians are revolting to see major change while Washington and the world want Egyptians to settle for the equivalent of a cabinet reshuffle. Until Mubarak and his sponsors in Washington and elsewhere grasp what is happening on the streets of Egypt, until they can get a feel of the popular pulse, Egyptians are not going anywhere.

The longer Egyptians stay in the streets, the more chaos there will be and the more complicated the solution will become.

In his most recent speech to the nation, Mubarak could have saved face and stepped down. Instead, he proved stiff, which might cause him to break and leave in humiliation. The longer the crisis drags the worst it turns for Egypt and its interests, something Mubarak talked about in his speech but clearly have no clue of how to deal with. Mubarak just does not get it.