After the mass detentions of foreign journalists in Cairo yesterday, many people seem to be wondering if Mubarak is planning some catastrophic counter-revolutionary action. He may be, although I think it's far more likely that the detentions were calculated to underscore his new found anti-Americanism. In Cairo, Mubarak's thugs are now claiming that the opposition is orchestrated by American and Israeli forces intent on undermining Egyptian sovereignty. Even as he continues to feed at the trough of US foreign aid, Mubarak has now cast himself as the stalwart defender of Egypt and the Arab world, standing alone against the forces of empire. This is more or less the same makeover that Saddam Hussein gave himself around 1990. It's difficult to know whether or not Mubarak's anti-Americanism will play to the Egyptian people (at this point, it seems rather unlikely). Nonetheless, he has, for the moment, successfully maneuvered the US into continuing to fund his counter-revolution. At this point, if the US were to withdraw its aid (so the strategic thinking goes) it would merely confirm Mubarak's identity as a lone wolf, a renegade, a rogue. This may be all the more reason to cut aid now, before the diplomatic situation deteriorates any further. The US has missed its window of opportunity. Strategically, the best it can do is play catch up with events on the ground.
At this point, however, it's probably best that the US concede the Great Game altogether. Strategic planning based upon egoistic calculations of interest is neither ethical nor effective. There are too many variables in play, too many futures at stake. We've been playing out the endgame of empire for nearly a hundred years, and we've nearly killed the planet in the process. It's past time that we move on.