When finally Hosni Mubarak falls from power, there will be enormous celebrations among the crowds in Liberation Square, and throughout Egypt.
There will be fear too, and it will not be confined to Mubarak as he works out how to get out alive.
Even the most revolutionary of the revoutionaries know that once the joy subsides, the country has to have a government, and how that government is formed, and what it does, will dictate whether the revolution is a date in history – that much is sure already – or a genuine milestone on the road to a truly democratic and prosperous Egypt.
There is no doubt that Mubarak’s own vested interest has been a big factor in his determination to hang on to power. But a part of him will be genuinely fearful for what happens in the country once he has gone. And of course that fear will extend to other Arab nations and indeed to the US.
President Obama looked his usual calm and composed self when he spoke about the situation this afternoon. But the tone also exposed the fear about what follows. There is something of a conflict, or at least a tension, between deep-seated US values, including their commitment to democracy, and actual US strategic interest.
It is impossible not to feel moved and inspired by the refusal of the protesters to give up their fight. Even as we wait for Mubarak’s latest statement, I can only begin to imagine the excitement and the hope that is surging through the tens of thousands who make up the crowds which have been a part of all of our lives these past 17 days.
But nobody outside Mubarak’s immediate circle, not even Obama himself, appears to know what the Egyptian president is going to say, and what kind of regime may follow. Until there is clarity, there will certainly be fear. And even when the clarity comes, assuming it does, it does not mean that all the fear will vanish.