In praise of American empire
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But what about long-lasting US backing for dictators, like Somoza, Pinochet, Marcos, and the shah? It should be noted that, in each case, the US eventually turned against their regimes and aided in their ouster.Skip to next paragraph
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In Chile and the Philippines, the outcome was favorable: The Pinochet and Marcos regimes were replaced by democratic governments that endure. In Nicaragua and Iran, however, one form of tyranny gave way to another.
These outcomes highlight a foreign- policy staple, the principle of the lesser evil. This means that one should not pursue a thing that seems good if it is likely to result in something worse. A second implication is that one is usually justified in allying with a bad guy to oppose a regime that is worse. A classic example was the American alliance with Stalin to defeat Hitler.
Thus, many US actions that support tin-pot dictators become defensible. Remember, America was fighting a cold war. If one accepts that the Soviet Union was indeed an "evil empire," then the US was right to attach more importance to Marcos and Pinochet's anti-Soviet position than to their autocratic thuggery.
NOW the cold war is over, so why does America support despotic regimes like those of Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, and the royal family in Saudi Arabia? Again, examine the practical alternative to those regimes.
Unfortunately there do not seem to be viable liberal, democratic parties in the Middle East. The alternative to Mr. Mubarak and the Saudi royal family appears to be Islamic fundamentalists of the bin Laden stripe. Faced with the choice between "uncompromising medievals" and "corrupt moderns," America must side with the corrupt.
Remember, also, the larger context. America is the most magnanimous imperial power ever. After leveling Japan and Germany during World War II, the US rebuilt them. For the most part, America is an abstaining superpower. It shows no real interest in conquering the rest of the world, even though it can. On occasion, the US intervenes in Grenada or Haiti or Bosnia, but it never stays to rule them.
Moreover, when America does get into a war, it is supremely careful to avoid targeting civilians. Even as US bombs destroyed the infrastructure of the Taliban, American planes dropped rations of food to avert hardship and starvation of Afghan civilians. What other country does such things?
Jeane Kirkpatrick once said that "Americans need to face the truth about themselves, no matter how pleasant it is." The reason many Americans don't feel this way is that they judge themselves by a higher standard. Thus if the Chinese, the Arabs, or the sub-Saharan Africans slaughter 10,000 of their own people, the world utters a collective sigh and resumes normal business.
By contrast, if America, in the middle of a war, accidentally bombs a school and kills 200 civilians, there is an uproar and an investigation. All of this demonstrates America's evident moral superiority.
If this be the workings of empire, let us have more of it.
Dinesh D'Souza's new book, 'What's So Great About America,' has just been released by Regnery Publishing. He is the Rishwain Fellow at the Hoover Institution in Palo Alto, Calif.