It seems like it was only yesterday that Thomas Friedman and Nicholas Kristof were camped out in Tahrir Square heralding the arrival of Egyptian democracy.
The Obama administration was congratulating itself on having helped overthrow a longtime American ally.
Today, Egyptians are going to the polls to elect a president, so everyone is touting Egypt’s new democratic future.
Unfortunately, the WallStreet Journal explains, Egypt does not have a constitution, so no one really knows what it will mean to be the president.
Nor is it even apparent what powers Egypt's next president will have. In the 16 months since a popular uprising forced longtime president Mr. Mubarak out of power, Egypt's rival political forces and ruling military have been unable to agree on a new constitution that, among other things, would define the powers of the presidency.
A minor detail, you will agree.
All of it sounds good. It even sounds like hope and change. But, as the New York Times reported yesterday, everyday life in post-Mubarak Egypt is becoming anarchic.
Plaudits go to Times reporter David Kirkpatrick for filing this amazing story:
Parts of the ring road encircling this capital are dangerous no man’s lands, unsafe to drive on, by day or night. Kidnappings and bank robberies are common around the city. And women report sexual assaults by taxi drivers, even in broad daylight.
Across Egypt, carjackers have grown so bold that they steal their victims’ cellphones and tell them to call to negotiate the return of the cars. And in Sharqiya, a rural province in the Nile Delta, villagers have taken the law into their own hands, mutilating and burning the bodies of accused thugs and hanging them from lampposts.
On the eve of the vote to choose Egypt’s first president since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, this pervasive lawlessness is the biggest change in daily life since the revolution and the most salient issue in the presidential race. Random, violent crime was almost unheard-of when the police state was strong.
Colin Powell used to say: You broke it, you own it.
Is it time to ask ourselves: Who broke Egypt?