Is Democracy Versus Autocracy the New Cold War?
"He may be an SOB, but he's our SOB."
So said President Franklin D. Roosevelt of Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, and how very American. For, from its first days, America has colluded with autocrats when the national interest demanded it.
George Washington danced a jig in 1778 when he learned that our diplomats had effected an alliance with France's King Louis XVI. The alliance, he knew, would be indispensable to an American victory.
In April 1917, the U.S. went to war "to make the world safe for democracy" in collusion with four of the world greatest empires: the British, French, Russian and Japanese. All four annexed new colonial lands and peoples from the victory for democracy we were decisive in winning.
In World War II, we gave massive military aid to Joseph Stalin's USSR, which used it to crush, conquer and communize half of Europe.
Antonio Salazar, dictator of Portugal, was a founding member of NATO. During the Cold War, we allied with autocrats Syngman Rhee of South Korea, Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines, the shah of Iran and Gen. Augusto Pinochet of Chile. The second largest army in NATO is under the autocratic rule of Turkish President Recep Erdogan.
Our major allies in the Arab world are Egypt's Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who overthrew a democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, and the various kings, princes, sultans and emirs along the Persian Gulf.
Yet, President Joe Biden has defined the global struggle as between democracy and autocracy and said, "Democracy will and must prevail."
"We agree with that strategic vision," echoed The Washington Post.
But is this an accurate depiction of great power rivalry today?