After Mubarak

One way to tell whether a regime has lost power is when its major symbols are overrun and no gatekeepers remain to stop it. Then the Berlin Wall is smashed down, Saddam's statue is toppled, or Marcos' palace is swarmed by crowds. In the case of Hosni Mubarak's resignation, the singer is gone, but the song remains. The 82-year-old strongman is on the way out, but Egypt is still mostly under the control of the Army. This means that the story, far from having ended, is now moving into a second phase.

Time magazine reported the administration was preparing an aid package for opposition groups -- but before Mubarak left.

First, with diminishing influence over Mubarak, they have to try to ensure the dictator fully relinquishes control. ... The second challenge is harder. Washington has publicly called for a transition to democracy, which Egypt has never known. To avoid a continuation of dictatorial rule under a new strong man or a dangerous power vacuum as weaker players try to seize control, Egypt will need to see the lightning-fast development of long-suppressed political parties. So the US is preparing a new package of assistance to Egyptian opposition groups designed to help with constitutional reform, democratic development and election organizing, State department officials tell TIME. The package is still being formulated, and the officials declined to say how much it would be worth or to which groups it would be directed.

The "aid package" is something that should have been undertaken from the beginning of the crisis. The package now under consideration is now way behind the curve and looks to be like carrying coals to Newcastle. Time suggests what it might look like.  "In countries like Serbia and Ukraine direct and indirect U.S. aid helped youth driven opposition movements successfully oust repressive leaders by training them in non-violent civil disobedience, election organizing and other fundamentals of civil society." The aid package has to "lead" events -- and events are moving at a pace far faster than the glacial formation of the aid package.

What appears to be happening, as noted above, is that the head of the system is changing, but the system itself remains largely intact. Egypt is now  in the post-Mubarak period. But whether it is in the post-Army period or moving there remains to be seen. Recent events may have convinced the Army officer corps that Mubarak had to go, but it probably still believes the Army has to remain in charge. The role of opposition groups in this context will be to take sides with factions in the Army. The BBC hypothesizes that this will change the ideology of the Army, but not the fact that the Army rules:

It is still too soon to know for certain what made Mr Mubarak step down, but it seems a reasonable assumption that the army leadership could see the hairline cracks appearing among their own officer corps.

The generals were inclined to side with the president, one of their own, and the more junior officers sympathised with the demonstrators.

There was an historical echo to that.

In 1952 many of the senior officers here preferred the monarchy, while the younger ones, including a young colonel called Gamal Abdel Nasser, favoured a successful coup against the old system.

There have only been two presidents since Nasser: Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak, who took over when Sadat was murdered.

What has happened today is that the old Nasserite system, a vaguely socialist, military dictatorship, heavily dependent on an unpleasant secret police, has collapsed.

What the next days and weeks will show is what the factions look like. If the Army has split, even so slightly, then that fact should manifest itself in the appearance of a number of blocs. Which way the civilian opposition groups are drawn will serve as an indicator, in the way that dust is drawn to some giant unseen gravitational source, of what is going on beneath. Some opposition groups will tailor their programs to capture some of the "aid" money the Obama administration is putting together, but the fundamental character of these blocs may already be determined by prior events -- where they fall within the new constellation.