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How to Help Those Suffering Under Dictatorship


With big anti-dictator demonstrations in Egypt and Yemen in the wake of the Tunisian revolution that ousted the U.S.-supported dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, U.S. officials are in a tight spot. On the one hand, they clearly want to continue supporting the dictatorial regimes in Egypt and Yemen, just as they did in Tunisia. They call it supporting “stability and order” in their “war on terrorism.”

On the other hand, they want the American people to continue perceiving the U.S. Empire as a “democracy-spreader.” After all, don’t forget that one of the alternative rationales that the Empire used to justify its invasion of Iraq was to spread democracy, well, after supporting Saddam Hussein (a dictator) anddelivering to him those infamous WMDs that were also used to justify the invasion.

So, how should U.S. officials walk this fine line? If they continue supporting the dictators, including through the funneling of U.S. taxpayer-funded foreign aid into the coffers of the dictators, then if the citizenry prevail in the revolution, as they have in Tunisia, there’s a good chance that the new regime will resent the U.S. Empire.

On the other hand, if U.S. officials support an anti-dictator revolution, if the revolution fails the dictator won’t forget how the Empire abandoned him in his hour of need.

Oh, the trials and tribulations of the U.S. Empire. It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for it.

I’ve got an idea. How about dismantling the Empire and having U.S. officials totally butt out of the internal affairs of other nations? That would mean the closure of all foreign U.S. bases (some 700-1000 in more than 100 countries), the termination of all foreign aid to every country, and the end of U.S. governmental interference with the internal politics of other nations.

What about foreign dictators? Leave them alone. That’s a matter for the people of those countries to deal with. Some will choose revolution, as in Tunisia. Others will choose to wait them out, as the Eastern European countries did during the Cold War. That’s their call, not the call of the U.S. government.

What about human rights in foreign countries? The U.S. government should lead the world by example, not impose its will on others, especially through force of arms. That means the closure of Guantanamo Bay and the end of torture, abuse, indefinite detention, kangaroo tribunals, denial of due process, assassination, executions, kidnapping, the war on terrorism, and the war on drugs.

At the same time, the U.S. government should lift all restrictions on the American people to travel and trade with people abroad. A good place to start would be the complete lifting of the cruel and inhumane embargo on the Cuban people, which also constitutes a grave assault on the economic liberty of the American people. Foreigners love Americans. They hate U.S. government officials. Rein in the government and free up the American people. What better way to spread diplomacy and ideas on democracy and liberty than that?

Is that all that can be done to help people suffering under dictatorship? No. Our American ancestors came up with another way: Open immigration. They let the word go forth to the people of the world: If you are suffering tyranny, oppression, or starvation, our government will not come to save you, especially with bombs, troops, or money. But if you have the desire and ability to escape your plight, know that there will always be at least one nation that will not repatriate you after you arrive: The United States of America. Isn’t that a much better and more moral way to help people than through death and destruction?

Today, the world is crying out for leadership in the area of freedom. Who better to lead the world out of its statist morass than the American people, whose heritage is based on individual liberty, free markets, civil liberties, and a constitutional republic? As people who yearn for freedom around the world begin to stir, let’s hope that the American people do too.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.