| 3.7°C Dublin

Egypt goes back to its future

VICTORY for a peaceful revolution, or a military coup? Which has occurred in Egypt? Last night the situation in Cairo remained unclear, and the only certainty was that the story still has a long, and probably turbulent, way to go.

In most instances one would suspect a military coup with a semi-democratic mask. In this case, however, there are grounds for trust in the Military Council. In Tahrir Square, the army acted with restraint and expertise. Subsequently, it could not but play a major role in the transition of power, if only to maintain order.

There also are grounds for hope in the presence in the country of a large educated class, including people of great political and bureaucratic sophistication. One such is Mohamed ElBaradei, retired United Nations official and respected opposition spokesman.

Yesterday he urged the army to bring in civilians to take part in managing the transition to democracy. The generals would be wise to comply. But even if they can gain public trust, there will be no smooth transition.

Among the many needs of the revolutionaries and reformers is encouragement from abroad. US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have been neither swift nor sure-footed in their response to events in north Africa and farther afield. Western powers, the United States in particular, must bring themselves to realise that everything has changed in the Arab world and that denial of human rights is not an option.