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Guns Kill People, Not Ideas: Why Brute Force Is Not the Solution to Unite a Divided Egypt

29/08/2013 12:15 BST | Updated 29/08/2013 12:15 BST

Dreams of a peaceful resolution to Egypt's post-coup polarisation have been shattered by the recent savage violence in Cairo, poising civil war as a more likely outcome than a ceasefire. For weeks, stunning protests have overwhelmed the world's media as the Muslim Brotherhood and coup fight for control of the country. Whilst the ruling military claim they only react when provoked, using violence to end violence is a historically foolish move.

Take the Balkans conflict of the 1990s - ethnic cleansing, rape and torture blighted the lives of those fighting for freedom from Milosevic. For the Albanians in Kosovo, going down without a fight did nothing to end the atrocities, but violence just brought more. NATO intervention may have stopped the brutal hands of Milosevic, but it also cleared the way for long-brewing retaliation against the now minority group of Serbians in Kosovo. Fifteen years since the war broke out, violent clashes still taunt the north of the nation - suggesting that even when (or if) the violence stops in Egypt, peace will not magically replace the tension.

If nothing else fuels the violence, a war of words is sure to challenge the vocabulary used by the military for many decades to come. The labelling of the Muslim Brotherhood as 'terrorists' may be PC if you assume the military have gained democratic legitimacy, but many argue that they are nothing more than a coup. Even if the military takeover was morally justified by ideals that underpin democracy, the question still begs whether it was democratically legitimate - challenging the pillars that underpin the post-enlightenment philosophical structure. It boils down to a question of human rights versus democracy.

Overthrowing an elected civilian government is certainly no way to champion democracy, and will taint the policies of the military in years to come. Their spin-doctors might choose to take a leaf out of Corey Brettschneider's book, Democratic Rights, which solves the conundrum by arguing that democracy is just a system of voting, whereby the people are 'self-rulers' who 'justify the very right to participate upon which majoritarian procedures are based'. This theory is likely to fall on deaf ears in the Muslim Brotherhood, who fear the military's action will see Egypt return to a draconian regime.

What's more, the release of Mubarak last week will initiate a further spell of violence to the chaos as the likelihood of him receiving punishment diminishes. How the Muslim Brotherhood react to this further dismissal of seemingly unilateral democratic norms will set a precedent for the future of Egypt's conflict. With recent clashes leaving hundreds dead, violence seems to be the only thing on the agenda. On the international field, this path could incite NATO assistance, with Egypt having already been warned to end violence by the UN. Argentina's ambassador to the UN urged Egypt to "exercise maximum restraint" in a bid to end violence, a warning not dissimilar to remarks made by the international organisation before NATO action was declared in Kosovo. Similarities to Kosovo emerge again with the crippled economy that will undermine prosecutions, destabilise healthcare facilities and challenge the maintenance of order for years to come. Without international help, Egypt's polarised nation will struggle to find its feet, but further violence, from whichever angle, will not find a solution. It may be asking the impossible, but put the weapons down, Egypt, and fire ideas instead.

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Photo: Darla Hueska