Steve Sachs Duke


Friday, June 06, 2003


More on France, part I. A reader responded to the earlier discussion of France with a list of various actions taken by the U.S. "in support of tyranny" over the past 50 years. It included support for authoritarian regimes in Guatemala, Chile, and Argentina, as well as the intervention in Vietnam, provision of "massive economic assistance and arms" to Saudi Arabia, and "military assistance and technology transfer" to the People's Republic of China.

To be honest, I don't know enough about the first three to comment on them accurately. The second three, though, seem like strange examples to give. America's actions in Vietnam, reprehensible as they were, weren't necessarily in support of tyranny (especially in light of what happened in Vietnam after the North won). I'm not sure how much pure "military assistance" we ever gave to China, even in the friendliest years of the detente. And according to the Washington Post, Saudi Arabia does not receive any U.S. aid, although it does purchase billions of dollars a year in U.S. military equipment.

That said, I didn't mean to imply--as I noted in the case of Saddam--that France was alone in its generosity towards dictators. No nation has a monopoly on virtue. In general, I think that the U.S. has often erred by supporting antidemocratic regimes, and that the spread of democracy is more likely to serve American interests in the long run. That's partly why I support the efforts of the Oxford Democracy Forum in seeking to make democratization a top priority of the international community. Many of America's worst realpolitik days are thankfully behind it; but as the ongoing support of Gen. Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan should remind us, these days aren't necessarily over, and the choices aren't necessarily easy.

(Which is why, I have to add, France's foreign policy decisions are so puzzling. I can understand an argument for going easy on Musharraf; although I'm not happy about it, we probably wouldn't have made much progress against Al Qaeda without his government's help. But how does giving the red-carpet treatment to the brutal Robert Mugabe, who's managed to turn a once-functional Zimbabwe into a complete basketcase, advance France's legitimate interests?)




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