Propping up dictators, and knocking them down

by John Quiggin on September 4, 2013

As we’ve discussed, bombing Syria seems like a bad idea, and its international legality is dubious at best. Still, it’s possible to make a case. The proposed action is directed against the military forces of a dictatorship that has killed thousands of its citizens, and Obama seems willing to comply with US law for once.

That would be a lot more convincing if it weren’t contradicted by the continued provision of aid to the military dictatorship in Egypt, following a coup against the democratically elected government. This is in direct violation of US law, and has emboldened the generals to engage in steadily more brutal repression.

There are some reports that the Administration is quietly suspending aid, or that it plans to do something after the Syrian bombing has been approved (or not). But there’s plenty of resistance as well, most notably from AIPAC.

As long as the US continues to prop up murderous dictatorships for geopolitical or economic reasons, it’s hard to take seriously the eruptions of moral outrage about those, like Assad’s, that have fallen out of favor. Obama may move on Egypt. But the US still supports autocracies throughout the region, most obviously Saudi Arabia and Bahrein, home of the 5th Fleet.