Other stories are trickling through about the damage done during the protests. The Egyptian Museum in Cairo was looted of "18 priceless artefacts", including ancient statues of King Tutankhamun. Lara Logan, a senior reporter with American TV network CBS suffered a "brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating" at the hands of a Cairo mob.
...and some private analysts have estimated that investors have been withdrawing funds at a rate of about $1 billion a day. Before the protests, Egypt was expected to have 5% annual economic growth; now the consensus is closer to 1%.
Disorder has high costs.
Catholic thinkers in the past listed six principles they believed must be satisfied by a conflict for it to be a "just war". These principles were:
1) A just cause: war could not be fought with loot or genocide in mind.
2) Declared by a legitimate authority (the government).
3) Fought with the "right intention".
4) The last resort after all other means have failed.
5) A reasonable chance of success.
6) Proportionality between the destruction caused by the war and the good it hopes to achieve.
Of these, at least two seem to favour the status quo. The second principle rendered illegitimate those wars waged by non-state actors, the fifth favoured the stronger military power. The Catholic Church was often criticised for its conservatism, its historical suspicion of the radical movements which eventually led to modern liberal democracy. Yet I can't fault their caution (in theory anyway, if not always in practice) towards the use of violence to achieve political goals, their desire to centralise that use of violence in the state.
This sounds rather like English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who believed that a powerful central state was necessary to avoid the chaos of disorder - the "warre of all against all". Hobbes would see disorder on a grand scale in his time, during the English Civil War.
Renaissance thinker Niccolo Machiavelli said:
The consequences of war, and to a lesser extent of all social disorder, are unclear and potentially terrible.
Wars begin where you will but they do not end when you please.
For these reasons I argue that massive popular protest of the kind that inhibits the state's ability to police society must be the second-last resort of desperate people, with violent insurrection being the last. Stable democracies like Ireland offer peaceful, legal ways to acquire power and to change the course of the country's governance, so there is no excuse here for a deliberate assault on the political system from without. The consequences of disorder are too grave for us to seek it without considerable cause.