It was with a lot of hope for the future of humanity that we watched democratic fervor sweep through the Middle East beginning in late 2010. The surging will of the people has met with mixed success: deposing Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, ousting Libyan overseer Qaddafi with the help of a little Western firepower, but also sinking into intransigent civil war in Syria, where perhaps 100,000 people have been killed. The term “Arab Spring” perfectly captures the sense of hope for the future that these demonstrations against tyranny inspired, but that hope has been tempered by an ugly reality that still unfolds before our eyes.
In Egypt, where the split between secular and religious ideology holds central sway, things have gone terribly wrong. Egypt’s first democratically-elected president, Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi, soon declared that he had unlimited power to protect the people and pass legislation without judicial review. Morsi was ousted by the same army that had stood with its people against Mubarak. Déja vu all over again.
Egypt’s latest administration has now undertaken an appalling crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood supporters who occupied public spaces in protest of the Egyptian Army’s takeover. More than 600 demonstrators have been killed as a matter of state “security.” But the army’s actions will do nothing except inspire plans of vengeance and violence, more resentment, more division, and less hope for a democratic society. You cannot uphold the will of the people by killing those who disagree with you.
Americans know from experience that democracy is a slow, messy, and even laughable process, but we also know it has the power to get things right. We would love to see an Arab Summer that is full of light, life, and warmth, and beyond that a global peace that tolerates our differences of opinion even as it works to synthesize them. War is not only terrible for its victims, its terrible for the planet. Like so much we are accustomed to, it is unsustainable. A twenty-first century republic cannot be at war—and we must lead the way.