By Ray Fleming

AFTER almost a year of euphoric Western reaction to the Arab Spring -- especially as it manifested itself in Egypt -- 2011 ended in a different way on Thursday when Egyptian forces conducted unprecedented armed raids in Cairo on the offices of pro-democracy and human rights non-governmental organisations with political and financial links to the United States, such as the National Democratic Institution and International Republican Institute. Thus, it could be said, an army which receives $1.3bn annually from America turned on symbols of its benefactor. In an unrelated interview on BBC's Radio 4 on Thursday morning Tony Blair said that unless the West does more “to help liberal and democratic elements in the Middle East” it risks the formation of new Islamist governments that are not “genuine” democracies; he urged engagement with the Arab middle classes who “want the same freedoms we want”. It is depressing to find Mr Blair still talking like his old ally George W Bush. Mr Blair was among those who succeeded in negating the result of the certified free and fair Palestinian elections in 1996 in which Hamas won a majority, with the consequent separation of Gaza and increased instability in the region.

Leaders like Blair and Bush believe in democracy only when it produces the “middle class” result they want. Thursday's events in Cairo cannot be condoned but they should be understood.

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