Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Why would a Democracy support a Dictator?

An argument that opponents make against post WWII U.S. Foreign Policy is that the U.S. was hypocritical in its support of Freedom. One of the examples given is the U.S. overthrew Mohammed Mossadeq, who was the democratically elected leader Iran in 1953. The U.S. then installed the Shah of Iran, who ruled the regime as a despot. His despotic rule caused a backlash and in 1979 the Islamic Radicals revolted in the Iranian Revolution. Thus the rise of the Islamic Radicalism can be laid at the footsteps of the U.S. Foreign Policy or so the argument goes.

Dinesh D’Souza discusses this example in a debate with Ward Churchill. He points out that Mossadeq was appointed, not elected. And to top it off, he was appointed and ratified by the SHAH himself. Afterwards, a power struggle ensued between Mossadeq and the Shah and the latter lost. At that point, the doctrine of the lesser evil comes into play. Who is the lesser evil at the moment? On one side, you have Mossadeq, a Secular Socialist who would certainly ally with the Soviet Union and allow its influence to spread throughout the Middle East. (His nationalization of an oil company two years before confirms his Socialism.) And on the other side you have the Shah, a bad guy for sure, but one whose evils would be limited to a particular place. Given these options, the U.S. decision to support the Shah does not seem that sinister (I’m assuming here that the Reagan’s characterization of the Soviet Union as the Evil Empire is on the mark.)

In regards to Islamic Radicalism, D’Souza points out the Khomeini actually supported the Shah against Mossadeq in 1953. Given the options, it makes sense that a religious fundamentalist would support a king over a secular socialist. In that case, it is plausible the Revolution would have occurred regardless of what the U.S. did.

The issue comes up at the following points in the video:

104:30-106:30; 107:10-108:10

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