The sight of large crowds cheering on a Military Coup is always going to end in tears. The scenes as the Egyptian Army removed the elected President from office were always destined to be quickly followed by the sound of bullets as two sides jostle for power.
Let’s be clear I am no supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood, but after so many years of tight military rule the Arab Spring brought hope that a fair election could see people in Egypt move towards gaining the freedoms we take for granted. Instead the clash of ideals about the future of Egyptian society is again being settled by bullets not ballots. The very cradle of Civilisation is looking to settle its disputes in the most uncivilised way.
The wave of optimism that was generated by the fall of dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, with many comparisons to the velvet revolution in Eastern Europe, have been lost amid the horrendous bloodshed of Syria and now Egypt. There are those who are quick to argue that some states or societies will never be ready for democracy and that this situation is inevitable in parts of the world. Yet those of us who have the benefit of democracy cannot just accept these arguments and passively support another group of hard men who will keep their people quiet or shrug our shoulders at continuing conflicts.
Whilst a fully functioning democracy cannot be dropped out of a B-52 or fired from a submarine, a hope that all countries will one day be governed by popular consent is one that should be kept. No western country should be ashamed to promote it via diplomacy, even if the current situation in a country realistically means dealing with those who are in power. I am always reminded of the image of Ronald Reagan standing at the Berlin Wall demanding it was torn down, whilst at the same time looking to negotiate arms reduction treaties with the then Communist Leaders of the USSR.
If we lose hope that people will one day settle their differences and agree to respect the rule of law, then we just give more fuel to the extremists who argue conflict is the only way. Hope is always worth holding onto, even if in the short term there seems little to justify it.