Back when Obama was dithering over “what to do about Mubarak,” I noted that it was an unpleasant decision, but that it was quite clear we should support the Egyptian dictator. Quote:
we have to stick with Mubarak, all the way down if he is indeed going down. We can talk about reform as much as we wish, but it’s as crazy to try to institute reform in the middle of an insurrection as it is to raise taxes in the middle of a depression. But we have to say — above all, privately — that we’re with him, and that while we want serious change in the future we will not abandon him.
That is the right policy, even if Mubarak goes down. If we do that, we can say to his successors: “We were loyal to him because he was a good ally, and we do not abandon loyal allies. If you are good allies, we will be loyal to you too, even at your darkest hour.”
If we bail, then both our other allies and Mubarak’s successors will know that America is not loyal, cannot be relied upon, and thus that it is a mistake to cater to the Americans’ wishes (about democracy, for example).
So, as history unfolds through paradoxes, we have identified another one: if you really want to advance democracy, it will sometimes be necessary to stand foursquare behind a dictator.
If we had pursued our national mission for the past many decades, we might have avoided the necessity of doing this unpleasant thing. But here we are. If we jump ship now, as it seems we are, it is odds-on to make things worse.
So we jumped and things got worse. Now what’s all this talk about all the neocons being wrong? Or have I been thrown out of yet another oversimplified generalization?
Meanwhile, reread the whole thing. The “Problem of the Friendly Tyrant” is one of the basic issues facing American presidents, and it’s a good idea to think it through. This is one of those teaching moments, as Rush likes to say…