Mona Charen

Post-Mubarak Egypt is a reminder of the dangers of chaos. During the Tahrir Square demonstrations in February, religious differences were papered over. "We are all one: Muslims and Christians are one," demonstrators chanted. That spirit hasn't lasted even a season. In the course of the past few weeks, repeated clashes have erupted between Copts and Muslims in Egypt. Two enormous Coptic churches have been torched, and dozens of people have been killed and wounded in street battles. A Muslim crowd estimated at 15,000, armed with Molotov cocktails, clubs, and guns, attacked a much smaller group of Copts who were demonstrating outside a Cairo TV station. The police were absent as usual. The violence was belatedly halted by the army.

Intra-Muslim violence has erupted as well. Salafists have attacked Sufi mosques and shrines, as well as Coptic churches, and the small Shiite community has suffered violence and intimidation. The Muslim Brotherhood, which had spoken soothingly of its willingness to let others lead during the Tahrir Square days, has now alarmed secularists and Copts by suggesting that Islamic law in the land of the pharaohs is the goal after all.

Of the 24,000 prisoners who escaped during the uprising against Mubarak, 8,400 are still at large, along with 6,600 weapons stolen from government armories.

Relations between Egypt and Iran have improved.

The Egyptian economy was fragile before the revolution. It has gotten much worse. The Asia Times reports that tourism has collapsed. Remittances from guest workers abroad are estimated to be half what they were in 2009. As the Weekly Standard reported, "Egypt is running out of food, and, more gradually, running out of the money with which to buy it ... Egypt imports half its wheat, and the collapse of its external credit means starvation."

The most important nation in the Arab world is teetering. This is not an endorsement of the Mubarak regime, but simply a reminder of the centrality of that most uncharismatic yet indispensable of virtues -- prudence.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist, political analyst and author of Do-Gooders: How Liberals Hurt Those They Claim to Help .
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