Actions speak louder than words. Anarchists seeking to spread revolution resort to extreme acts hoping to stir the sympathy of the general population. Would be change-agents differ in their favored instrument of provocation – assassination, bombings or general strike. They are united by their intrinsic lack of real power. They only way they can hope to achieve their ends is by persuading other players to react and indirectly give them what they want. As such, the “propaganda of the deed” in practiced typically by people on the fringe of society, not in the corridors of power. (See my paper The Strategy of Manipulating Conflict with Tomas Sjöström for illustrations of this strategy.)
But Mubarak has reached this lowly state even as President of Egypt. He has conspicuously lost popular support and tensions long suppressed have burst asunder for all to see. He has lost the support of “the people” and, perhaps even more importantly, the army. What can he do to get it back? The anti-Mubarak protestors have till recently refrained from looting and mob mentality has been notable for its absence. As long as that remains the case, the army and the people are siding with the anti-Mubarak protestors or largely staying out of the fray. Mubarak’s only hope is to get the people and the army to pick his side. He needs to energize the mob and trigger looting. That is his strategy. Police disappeared from the streets of Cairo a few days ago, inviting looters to run amok. That did not work. So, now he has employed pro-Mubarak “supporters” to fight anti-Mubarak protestors. Open fighting on the streets of Cairo, prodding the army to step in. The people scared of the outbreak of lawlessness turning to the strongman Mubarak to return some semblance of stability to the city and the country. This is where we are in the last couple of days. Another obvious strategy for Mubarak: Get his supporters to loot and pin it on the anti-Mubarak protestors. Not sure if that is happening yet.
What can be done to subvert the Mubarak strategy? For the protestors, the advice is obvious – no looting, no breakdown of law and order. The primary audience is the army and people – keep them on your side. For the Obama administration there is little leverage over Mubarak. I assume he has hidden away millions if not billions – cutting off future aid has little chance of persuading Mubarak to do anything. Again, the army is the primary audience for the Obama administration. Whichever side they pick will win. The army cares more about the cutoff of future aid than Mubarak. They have trained in US military schools and have connections here. The only leverage the Obama administration has is over the army and it is hard to tell how strong that leverage is.