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President Donald Trump arrives to speak at Mar-a-Lago after the U.S. fired a barrage of cruise missiles into Syria, Palm Beach, Fla., April 6, 2017 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

From Egypt to Syria, Trump Faces a Dictator Dilemma in the Middle East

Friday, April 7, 2017

Throughout the Cold War, the United States wrestled with the “friendly dictator” dilemma. Americans had long believed that democracy was not only the most just political system, but also the only one that could remain stable over time. Dictators might impose order for a while, but eventually the natural urge for freedom led to their downfall. Under the right conditions, a dictator’s demise could be relatively peaceful. At other times, though, it sparked a dangerous paroxysm of violence.

Even so, Cold War-era American policymakers accepted and even embraced friendly dictators. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the problem was not resolved but faded as authoritarian regimes around the world gave way to nascent democracies. Now, as the world is torn by the struggle against violent extremism, the friendly dictator dilemma is back. ...

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