For the moment, to paraphrase Nietzsche, out of the chaos, there is at least one faint sign of a dancing star.
It is Mohammed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who headed the International Atomic Energy Agency after a successful career as an Egyptian diplomat.
When he was asked recently if he'd run for president, ElBaradei said: "The priority for me is to -- is to shift Egypt into a democracy, is to catch up with the 21st century, to get Egypt to be a modern and moderate society and respecting human rights, respecting the basic freedoms of the people."
All these are goals that deserve the support of the international community.
Will Egypt be able to make a peaceful transition to a democratic society with equality and justice for all before things fall apart?
Currently, the political situation in Egypt remains fluid and uncertain. The country needs to find a path to democratic transition quickly; but given the weakness of civil society organizations -- a legacy of decades of repression -- the path ahead remains murky. A power vacuum has already developed, raising specters of insecurity, economic chaos and political disaster.
It is precisely this power vacuum that creates a problem of transition that is fraught with danger.
To be sure, the demonstrations are not as bereft of organization and leadership as it may appear. From the very beginning these organizations included members of the once-popular Kifaya (Enough), the youth-based 6th of April movement, the Popular Democratic Movement for Change (HASHD), the National Association for Change, founded by ElBaradei, the Justice and Freedom Youth movement and several others.
A week before the demonstrations got under way, some 30 of these activists met in the decrepit headquarters of the Center for Socialist Studies in central Cairo to organize.
However, the secular forces such as these are less likely to play a major role without further explicit organizing moves politically and programmatically.
The two best organized forces during the current crisis have been the armed forces and the Muslim Brotherhood. The latter, however, has not been able to play a leading role, largely because of the earlier hesitations of its senior leadership. The leaders hesitated at least for two reasons. One is their aversion to and suspicion of the secular forces. The other is their initial pessimistic estimate of the level of anger and energy of the masses, and their staying power.
It may very well be that short of a political miracle, Mubarak can't stay on much longer. In an Egypt without Mubarak, who will rule?
Given the organizational weakness of the civil-society-based secular forces and, mercifully, the inability and unwillingness of the Muslim Brotherhood to mount a frontal challenge for seizing power, the army is the most likely candidate for at least being a transitional power-holder.
Here, too, there are further complications.
The old guard, including Mubarak's hastily chosen successor, does not have the trust of the people. On the other hand, the mid-ranking officers such as the lieutenant colonels who are with the people in Tahrir square may or may not side further with the people of Egypt. Will there be a replay of the situation that propelled another lieutenant colonel named Gamal Abdel Nasser to power in 1952? The longer Mubarak hangs on to power, the more likely a split between the tainted senior generals and the younger more patriotic officers will become.
This is desirable, but will it happen before total chaos engulfs the nation of Egypt?
One thing is certain. No matter what kind of transitional regime comes to power immediately in Egypt, the deeper economic and political problems of extreme inequalities of power and wealth, and foreign dependence of the elite must be addressed.
And this may be true, not just for Egypt, but for the Arab world as a whole.
Haider A. Khan is a professor of economics at the University of Denver's Josef Korbel School of International Studies.