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Why U.S. Sometimes Supports Dictatorial Regimes -- Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt

Reader comment on item: Bush's Middle East Hopes [and His Failures]
in response to reader comment: Dictatorial Regime

Submitted by Sofa Sogood (United States), Jan 22, 2008 at 16:09

The transmission of my 1-17-08 comment got messed up and mixed up. It's corrected now, and I answer your question about dictatorships and Pakistan there. Please read it again.

I wrote the paragraphs below, and then looked at your question again. You said "elected" government, not "democracy"-- so you're asking why US relationship is better with Dictators in Pakistan than with elected governments in Pakistan -- and you're eliminating the question of democracy for now.

I don't know the specific history of the various governments and dictators in Pakistan. I know the U.S. was eager to see an election that would empower Bhutto in a coalition with Musharrif, and as far as I know, she was for a Secular Government and fairly Pro-American. I think the U.S. would support an elected Islamist government if it was very Pro-American and the U.S. felt that could last. Trouble is there are no elected Islamist governments that are Pro-American.

Elected Islamist governments are invariably Anti-American. Dictators, Islamist or not, are sometimes -- and only sometimes -- more flexible toward a relationship with the U.S. I think it's because the dictates of religious ideology are usually not #1 on their minds. Maybe, in the case of Pakistan, Jordan, and Egypt, U.S. money helps their economy, and helps them support their Defense and Military. The U.S. militarily protected Kuwait and Saudi Arabia from Saddam's war machine.

Elected Islamists usually are very directed by their religious leaders -- who most often hate America and Democracy and don't care about whether the U.S. helps them financially or militarily or not. I suppose these are some of the reasons. Maybe there are others. So, to go back to what I originally wrote here:

I will add that there's no question that the U.S. would always prefer to support a real democracy. That is surely in our own interest. However, while the U.S. has some options, it is very often limited in it's choices of who it must support -- and that sometimes includes dictatorships. But then, any country has a right to look out for itself and its own interests -- including the U.S. It doesn't forego this right just because it's a rich country -- otherwise it wouldn't stay healthy -- or safe.

How could anyone think that the U.S. ought to support an Islamic Sharia Government (and therefore not a "democracy" anyway) which would be anti-American, just because it was "elected?" Or support any government which would be harmful to the U.S? The answer is obvious

Also added to what I said about Pakistan -- While Musharrif is a big problem, the choice is between him and the Islamist Party. They won't be any more "democratic" and they will be even much more anti-American -- and might be less trustworthy to keep the nuclear materials out of the hands of those who would harm us and others. Security of those weapons is the major priority. So the US supports him as the lesser evil -- that is, those in power in the U.S. now.

That could change as there are many Americans who prefer misinformed ideals to the facts of reality. And support is just that -- support. It's not total control. The Pakistanis could oust him. It would probably be a disaster for everyone -- even worse than the situation now.

If Pakistan were able to create a really free Secular Democracy, control or at least suppress its dangerous Islamists and wild and violent tribal elements, concentrate on economic growth, development and Peace, and be at least somewhat Pro-American, the U.S. would wholeheartedly support that government. (The more Pro-American, the more "wholeheartedly" -- it's natural). It would also support any government which was ernestely and honestly working to go in that direction -- as long as it was determined to and strong enough to protect those nuclear weapons. (Bhutto???)

If you're asking why the relationship is not good between the U.S. and Islamists elected by majority rule (which are not democracies) -- I can only guess why the Islamists hate the U.S., the West and Democracy in general. It might be because of the Islamist intention to have Islam "rule the world." It might be because in general, in the past (and present), whether rule by majority Islamists or Dictatorships, Pakistan and the Middle Eastern countries have been very violent inside their own countries, and have placed more emphasis on making war with their neighbors (i.e., Pakistan-India) than they have on growing their economies.

Look at Iran. They can easily be growing their economy, but would rather make trouble with Hezbollah in Lebanon and elsewhere, and keep threatening to drop a bomb on Israel -- because of religious ideology and because they dream of dominating the region.

Is hatred of the U.S. by the people in those countries caused by U.S. support of the dictators? I don't believe so -- Dictatorships were a way of life in the Middle East before any idea of "elections" was prevalent. Islamists have hated us since the 1920's because the Moslem Brotherhood formed and wanted control (we didn't support Nassar), so they infused into their people that we were "Dar al Harb." Their way of control is to focus the hatred of their people against an "enemy" and fill them with dreams of World Islamic Conquest and Dominance -- appealing to the worst instincts in human nature.

(Currently, a large part of the Muslim world has been brainwashed into believing that the West is attacking Islam and they have to protect themselves and their religion from us!! Thus, when non-Muslims in the West refuse to be dominated by or follow or accommodate some Sharia rule, Muslims feel attacked and consider their own attack religious self-defense!!)

In Jordan, Egypt and Saudia Arabia, why should the U.S. support Islamist Governments who might happen to be "elected" but are not democracies, and are Anti-American? Do you think we ought to support those who would be our enemy? The dictators of those countries govern in a way that is no more repressive than the Islamists would be -- and the Dictators might actually be less repressive, seem less inclined to make war so far, and there's more order.

Those Governments also probably discourage terrorism, at least, more than Elected Islamist Governments would -- or encourage it less -- however you want to put it. And then, Hezbollah-like or Hamas-like governments could be elected, which are themselves terrorists and violent totalitarians.

There might be more reasons, but these ought to do for now.

Don't forget that the U.S. had a very good relationship with the elected Turkish Government as long as their government was Secular and going more and more towards a real Democracy. Now that they have elected an Islamist government, the relationship is falling apart -- because they are now Islamist and anti-American.

During the Soviet era, the U.S. needed to support governments that would side with the U.S.-- and not with the Soviets -- period. It's not perfection, but America can't always be perfectly in line with its own ideals. Loyalty to proven "allies" is a very important priority. We hope to do our very best to support "real" Democracies. (George Bush was very mistaken to try to "push" elections and call that Democracy). But beyond that, balances and priorities have to be dealt with. Keeping to ideals can never be siucidal.

There are always devilish choices that have to be made, and then, perhaps, some of those choices, in retrospect, might be considered wrong for the U.S. itself and the others involved. Some decisions the U.S. Government has made have clearly been very mistaken -- depending upon who was in power at the time -- but democracies like the U.S. evolve, and hopefully, learn from experience and can change directions.

Should the U.S. be such a big trading partner with China -- a Communist Dictatorship? It remains to be seen.

Should the U.S. support a Palestinian State as they are now doing? Absolutely not. Not until they have completely and thoroughly given up violence and the idea of destroying their neighbor -- and are committed to improving their own lives and prospering.

Should the U.S. have supported Saddam in the '80's? At that time, the Iranians had recently invaded our embassy, taken our diplomats hostage for over a year, and we were concerned that if they blockaded our access to oil, we would have to go to war with Iran ourselves. Saddam's conflict with Iran kept that war at bay, and kept the Iranians from doing all the harm they are doing now in Lebanon and all over the Middle East and beyond. Did we like supporting him? No. Did we feel we had to? Yes. Was it right or wrong or good or bad? Yes.

Should we (the part of our government that did) support Osama Bin Laden and the Mujahadeen against the Soviets? Yes, for what we knew. We didn't know what he was. Our CIA let us down and didn't do their "research" on him and his beliefs.

Should the U.S. abandon it's support of the Saudi Arabian Government and support instead the Wahabbi's who would be "elected by the majority?" It certainly wouldn't be a democracy. And that "majority" would most likely unleash even more terrorists, would attempt to harm the U.S. more than they are doing now, and would probably cut off our oil. It's a ridiculous idea to even think about. Same for Jordan and Egypt.

Sometimes people look at things in general and say, "If it's not perfect, then it's all bad." The U.S., as the world's great superpower, while doing good for itself, has done so very much good for humanity -- Europe after the War, South Korea, Japan, etc. etc. -- although it cannot be everybody's answer to a perfect world. It doesn't have the power to create a perfect world for everyone -- no one does.

I don't know which country you are from, or why you call yourself "Shahid," so the following may be irrelevant to you, but I'll say it anyway.

While visiting a European country a couple of years ago, my friends took me into their local pub and made introductions. One of the crowd piped up, "I don't like America!" I pulled him over and whispered into his ear, "Me neither. I wish we were not paying for NATO, so I could have free health insurance instead of you. Then you could pay for NATO, take the brunt of all the remarks from people who benefitted from but didn't like the choices your country had to make, and I could feel real superior by saying, "Hey, I don't like your country. So, please, you be the Superpower. Or, on the other hand, you could just be speaking Russian now, while I take my 6 week paid vacation."

So much perfection is not only expected, but demanded of America -- it's a damaging fantasy.

Which country, can I ask you, would have done or would do better for the world if it were the leader and superpower? Germany? Japan? The Soviet Union? Putin's Russia? China? England? France? Norway? -- I don't believe any would have done better -- and probably would have done a lot worse.


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