Without leaders, how do you negotiate?

The organized opposition don’t matter much to the protests in Egypt. Everything is being arranged online, and through informal networks.

Given that — how are they ever going to reach a compromise with the government?

In a movement with leaders, this follows an intuitive pattern. The authorities talk to the leaders, grant some of their demands, and persuade them to call off the protests. If needed, they can add some extra pressure with personal bribes or threats.

Without leaders, this just doesn’t work. The government can offer things to the protesters, but has no way of getting a halt to the protests in return. So any concessions they do make will just encourage the rebels to continue with further demands.

So: either the demonstrations gradually peter out, without being able to force any change. Or the government reacts with violence, terrifies people out of joining the protests. Or, just possibly, things escalate until the government falls, accompanied by who knows how much violence.

But I can’t see how the Jan25 movement — or any movement without an ability to negotiate — can end with some kind of moderate, limited success.

Am I wrong?

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