First Mubarak and now his military say they offer a choice between their own stern rule or chaos, but it looks increasingly as if they are the source of the chaos.
"The events of the last few days require us all as a people and as a leadership to choose between chaos and stability," Hosni Mubarak told his country in a televised January 29, 2011, speech, one of several he made laying out to the same proposition he'd been using for years to justify staying in power: it's me or chaos. Mubarak's conceit was that was Egyptian chaos would come from the bottom up: lawless youth, a power-hungry Muslim Brotherhood barely distinct from al-Qaeda, and a fractured Egyptian society that needed his strong hand to keep together.
A year and a half later, Mubarak's chaos has come true, but by neither the causes nor the perpetrators he'd claimed. The Supreme Constitutional Court, which is closely aligned with the military, has dissolved the newly elected parliament; the court also ruled that Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's prime minister (and a major figure in the same crackdown that landed Mubarak in jail), can compete in the presidential vote, which is now entering a run-off between Shafiq and the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate; and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has been running the country since pushing out Mubarak, announced it will hold an "emergency meeting" to decide the country's next steps. Some Arabic news sources say that the military now plans to appoint its own, non-democratic body to write the new constitution.