When Westerners unfamiliar with Egypt heard that tanks were rolling into the streets of Cairo, they assumed it was bad news.  Indeed, when brutal regimes switch from the police to the army to crack down on dissidents, it’s almost never good news.

The most infamous example of this is the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, when the People’s Liberation Army used guns and tanks on student protesters.

In Egypt, however, the situation is different.

Global intelligence firm Stratfor said there were confirmed reports, from Al Jazeera, that the police and military are clashing with each other in Egypt.

If this were the case, the military is obviously the one on the side of protesters while the police are on the opposing side.

Indeed, the police – riot police, plainclothes officers, and whatever other kinds exist -- are the object of seething hatred from the people and a reason they’re protesting in the first place.

CNN’s Moni Basu sheds more light on the situation.

According to her, journalists have reported seeing protesters cheer the arrival of the army, embrace them, and regard them “as saviors from excessive police brutality.”

Apparently, Egypt’s “450,000-strong armed forces are well-established and respected by the people.”

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak must have known this; the fact that he sent the military to Cairo means he was “desperate,” according one professor Basu spoke to.

The military is the key to this unfolding revolt.

While protesters stand a chance against the police force, they are no match for the military.  If push comes to shove, the military – if they crackdown on protesters – will win.  However, if they decided to side with protesters or simply do nothing, it’s quite possible that Mubarak’s regime can be toppled by force from the protesters.

Of course, this revolt can end before violence escalates to the military level if Mubarak gives up his rule. A very unlikely alternative scenario is that the protesters simply give up and disperse.