Will 'chaos' reign if Mubarak resigns?

The embattled Egyptian president says he'd be willing to step down immediately — but won't because the country would fall apart. How valid is that forecast?

Anti-government protesters pile into Tahrir Square Friday for what they have dubbed the "day of departure," despite President Mubarak's refusal to stand down.
(Image credit: Getty)

Egyptian protesters have declared Friday the "Day of Departure" for President Hosni Mubarak, and Mubarak would love to accommodate them, or so he told ABC News' Christiane Amanpour, in his first major interview since Egypt's revolt started. But "if I resign today, there will be chaos," the embattled president said, adding that he'd given President Obama a similar message: "You don't understand the Egyptian culture and what would happen if I step down now." Could Egypt handle Mubarak's abrupt departure? (See pro-Mubarak demonstators in Egypt's streets)

Egypt will transition just fine without Mubarak: "Nice try, Hosni," says Roger Cohen in The New York Times. Mubarak's necessary and imminent departure "is not a recipe for chaos." The Egyptian army "has shown superb professionalism" so far, and "it can be the guarantor of an orderly transition." If Mubarak steps down quietly now, after 30 years, he'll have "earned the right, just, to die on Egyptian soil."

"Hosni Mubarak agonistes"

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Mubarak is the chaos: What kind of leader sends "thugs" to attack "peaceful anti-government encampments with stones, knives, and Molotov cocktails"? asks Jackson Diehl in The Washington Post. Clearly, Mubarak is the one who "unleashed the 'chaos'" he is warning about, and it's not a new tactic for the strongman: Orchestrating "ugly violence" is a way to "create a pretext for a still bloodier intervention" that will keep him in power.

"Mubarak unleashes chaos"

The change will be chaotic, but worthwhile: Whatever Mubarak does, "the democratic upheavals in the Middle East will almost certainly spread instability," at least in the short term, says James Kitfield in National Journal. And this poses "terrible risks" for not just Egypt, but also the U.S. and Israel. Despite the "host of potential dangers" and instability, though, a democratic Egypt free of "autocrats and theocrats" is the only way forward.

"Obama's risky idealism: Reversing the 'devil's bargain'?"

Mubarak will outlast the protests: Egypt's demonstrators have "no clear leader, no compelling slogan, no agreed-upon agenda, other than that Mubarak must go," says Patrick Buchanan in The American Conservative. But Mubarak "is not going to go quietly, or quickly," despite the Obama team throwing him under the bus. The army is staying neutral, and "the crowd in Tahrir Square lacks what it takes to deny" Mubarak the right to finish his term in dignity.

"The American way of abandonment"

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