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Trump’s Real Sin in DC Is Not Distinguishing Between "Good" and "Bad" Dictators


Trump’s Real Sin in DC Is Not Distinguishing Between "Good" and "Bad" Dictators

Juan Cole

Donald J. Trump’s peculiar comments about and relationship with dictators and loonies among foreign leaders have upset a range of observers, from sincere human rights activists to cold-blooded Think Tank Rats. First he welcomed the Philippines’ demagogue and possibly cold-blooded murderer Rodrigo Duterte to Washington. Then he said he understood the problems North Korea’s Kim Jong Un had battling off his bloodthirsty relatives.


Someone please tell me when the US has ever overthrown a dictator and installed a democracy.


I genuinely like this article and think Cole is pointing out something really important.

On one hand, you don't negotiate with difficulty with your friends. That's usually not too complicated, right? So somehow we still have to have conversations with people we don't like.

And that is oh, so hard to balance!

But Cole says this: "Trump just seems to like all the dictators."

And that, America, is our problem.

He's a wanna-be and there is very little inclination to constrain his power in Congress. Our weak Congress, so smitten with power themselves, could aid and abet a slide into a dictatorship with frightening ease.

We are in terrible trouble.


Chaos creators. Sure, shoot 'em up (allow people unable to handle their own affairs to buy weapons), require four documents in New Mexico to renew a driver's license (with exactly the same names on all docs - no J. for Jim, or James although the social security #s match) because, you know, bad guys might be trying to drive legally. And crazy people with guns require more 'law and order' oppression.
This is the R.s smoke screen for incompetence. And it is dangerous.


You should try Georgia, I practically had to agree to a DNA test. :confused:


The problem is more complex than Dr. Cole suggests.

To wit: the removal of some dictators results in a power vacuum...Battling factions of religious fundamentalists, rightwing hardliners, military juntas, etc struggle to fill the vacuum...the dictatorship is replaced by something even worse or a long period of anarchy.

I hate dictatorships. But sometimes I'm willing to bide my time.


Juan Cole makes a good point but he did not note a key difference. US leaders have said positive things about dictators but this was to further perceived US interests. Trump says positive things about dictators because he wants to be a dictator himself, and may be successful in achieving that, so he is trying to make dictators acceptable. He is hoping this will help him to achieve his aspiration of total power.


Pretty good article by Juan Cole, and it's good that he brought up the fact that Trump isn't the first president to flirt with dictators (though he might be the first to welcome ALL dictators). The US's attitude towards dictators was best summarised by, allegedly, FDR, who said about Somoza: "He may be an SOB, but he our SOB."


"He may be an SOB, but he our SOB."

Should be "....but he's OUR sonofabitch."

Want to emphasise "OUR." We can compare this attitude with the British view that Britain has no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests. In short, morality has no place in foreign policy - today this would be viewed by some as "realism."


um, maybe 3 times after WWII. Germany, Italy, and Japan. I think that Germany and Italy, being seen as white and with many americans from those countries, forced the US to allow democracy. Japan definitively though, which is a surprise.
However the usual behavior is to overthrow democracies and install dictators. We have done that more often. Any left leaning elected government is threaten by the US and overthrown if possible.


That is true, but there is a difference between overthrowing and supporting dictators. The problem is that not only do we tolerate them as friends, but install them also instead of supporting democracy. I tried to count how many dictators were installed by the US over the last hundred years plus. I reached 33, with a good minority installed after the US overthrew democratically elected governments.
We say we support democracy, but in reality, we support dictators, unless they piss us off. Like Saddam, who was a friend of ours, who we put in power and sold chemical weapons to him. Then helped him use them against Iran. Then committed mass murder against his own people. Still supported him. It wasn't until Kuwait that we say he was our enemy now. And then must be overthrown.
If we hadn't put him into power and help him stay in power, we would not have the problem with Iraq today. The same is true with Iran. Back in 1950, Iran was a democracy and elected a government. The US overthrew the government and installed the Shah of Iran. He was supported by the US and was a vicious dictator. That worked out well for the US. There was Batista of Cuba, overthrown by Castro (who turned to the US for help right afterwards and was snubbed. The soviets didn't snub him though.). Another situation that worked out so well.
The Marcos of the Philippines and the dictators before them. The Saudis who make the top 5 most repressive countries in the world list every year who the US put into power and help keep them there. Who export far more terrorism to the world than Iran, yet they are our best friend. Pinochet and on and on the list goes of dictators that the US made sure had power.
The point isn't why we are not overthrowing them, but why do we support them. Why do we call some of the worst dictators our friends. We shouldn't be helping them stay in power.


The US has never had morality, either domestically or foreign. I would argue neither has Britain or other countries for the most part. Morality does not exist in the realm of countries. There are exceptions, but they are few.


I'd written about this matter before in a number of blogs. True, morality tends to be absent in the foreign policies of most or all countries, including the US. But, at the same time, the US probably had the greatest potential to be exceptional in this aspect. This is not only because of its economic and military power, but perhaps more important, its vast human resources - many good universities producing large numbers of highly educated people - that could enable it to do more good than any other nation on earth. I think JFK had such a vision in the Peace Corps, and it's nothing short of tragic that the nation had chosen, instead, to squander all its multi-pronged advantages on unceasing, immoral, wars.


The potential has never lived up to reality. The good we do as individuals is outweighed by the harm the country does. Since this is suppose to be a government by the people, the people ought to make it behave more morally. But they do not. Thus no amount of potential does any good when it is not used. It is all wasted.


I agree with you on Japan, but Hitler and Mussolini were both elected.


That has never stopped the US from installing dictators. There have been a number of democracies that the US overthrew and installed dictators. And I was not stating that the US installed hitler or mussilini, just that after WWII we made democracies of those 3 countries afterwards instead of dictatorships. Which considering our history before then was remarkable. We had never allowed democracy in a country we had conquered before then. We always made sure there was a dictator in place.
Which is why I stated that we probably went with democracy in those two countries because of the number of people in this country from them. Plus I left unstated, they were considered white, which I also think played a big role in making them democracies. Which is why Japan was surprising. We did not make south korea a democracy nor the philippines (In name only was the philippines a democracy). Nowhere else in the world did we create democracies from the ashes of the war torn countries.
Supposedly we made democracies in afghan and Iraq, though what we really did was install corrupt politicians and called it democracy. Maybe in the end, they will become democracies, but the way they are going, I doubt it. Considering that w/o our help, neither can survive as a country, which was our fault in the 1st place, it will be difficult for them to get real freedom.


I agree with all you have written here and stand corrected.


I was not really explaining what I meant in the 1st post. I made assumptions and that does not work very well usually. Just because I knew what I meant, doesn't mean others will be able to read my mind.