Restating the Obvious About Dictatorships

At a time when the current administration considers it appropriate to cozy up to enemies, it seems appropriate to understand why we have enemies. Moreover, rather than assume these enemies are victims of American colonial ambitions or historical misdeeds, these regimes should be evaluated on one simple criterion: how they treat their own people.

When we remove the blinders of ideological myopia, what is revealed does not square with Obama’s apologies or the belief that all the wrongs, or most of the wrongs, in the world can be attributed to the United States.

Yoani Sanchez is a dissident blogger in Cuba who has pointed out the dictatorial control of the Castro brothers and the police state environment they have fostered in the island nation. On October 6, she was walking down a Havana street with three friends when Cuban agents in civilian clothes forced her into an unmarked car and proceeded to beat her relentlessly. They screamed at the same time that she had better stop criticizing the government.

Despite the elite American celebrities who travel to Cuba and return to sing the praises of Fidel, this assault highlights how little has changed in the country’s record of repression. According to the American Press Association, a watchdog group, there are currently 26 journalists in jail and 102 incidents against Cuban bloggers and writers, including arbitrary arrests, death threats, and beatings.

Some contend that the attack against Ms. Sanchez was not personal, but rather a state campaign against the blogger phenomenon that has the potential to undermine the existing government.

Apparently Ms. Sanchez's poignant vignettes of daily aggravations and humiliations can't be easily silenced. Earlier this year, she won a journalism prize from Columbia University but was barred by the Cuban government from accepting the award. Her courage and drive will assuredly be tested again by a government that cannot tolerate dissent.

On another front, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards has formed a new organization to quell internal dissent. Shaken by the scale of street protests that followed the presidential elections in June, the mullahs are intent on repressive measures to thwart the dissidents -- suggesting, in effect, that the existing intelligence units cannot be relied on. State media named Hassan Taeb, commander of the Basij paramilitary organization known for its brutal methods, as the new head of the intelligence operations.