BY PATRICK J BUCHANAN
“He may be an SOB, but he is our SOB.”
That said President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza and how very American. Because from the beginning America worked with autocrats when the national interest demanded it.
George Washington was dancing a jig in 1778 when he learned that our diplomats had an alliance with France’s King Louis XVI. were received. He knew the Alliance would be essential to an American victory.
In April 1917, the US went to war “to make the world safe for democracy” in consultation with four of the world’s largest empires: the British, French, Russians and Japanese. All four annexed new colonial countries and peoples from the victory of democracy for which we were decisive.
During the Second World War we provided the USSR with massive military aid from Joseph Stalin, which in this way smashed, conquered and communicated half of Europe.
Antonio Salazar, dictator of Portugal, was a founding member of NATO. During the Cold War we allied with the autocrats Syngman Rhee from South Korea, Ferdinand Marcos from the Philippines, the Shah from Iran and General Augusto Pinochet from Chile. The second largest army in NATO is under the autocratic rule of Turkish President Recep Erdogan.
Our main allies in the Arab world are Egypt’s General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who overthrew a democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, and the various kings, princes, sultans and emirs along the Persian Gulf.
However, President Joe Biden defined the global struggle as between democracy and autocracy, saying: “Democracy will and must win.”
“We agree with this strategic vision,” the Washington Post repeated.
But is this an accurate representation of today’s rivalry between great powers?
If the autocratic-democratic divide is the fault line, on which side do Erdogan, Sisi and the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman fall?
Are we really in an ideological war with Vladimir Putin’s Russia today, as in the Cold War with Stalin’s USSR?
We have a dispute with Putin over Crimea and Donbass, and he wants to prevent Ukraine and Georgia from joining NATO. But where is the evidence that Putin is trying to turn our democratic form of government into an autocracy?
Putin’s objections to us relate to our politics, not our democracy.
In the 1950s, Nikita Khrushchev had boasted that America’s grandchildren lived under communism. When did Putin proclaim such a great ideological Kremlin goal?
Is our dispute with China ideological?
China is a large and growing economic and military power that argues with most of its neighbors.
It has trade problems with Australia; a border dispute with India in the Himalayas; and differences with Vietnam, the Philippines, and four other nations over who owns the islands in the South China Sea. China also claims Taiwan and the Japanese-occupied Senkaku Islands.
But with the exception of Taiwan and Hong Kong, which claim it as sovereign Chinese territory, Beijing has not pushed any nation into adopting a political system similar to that of the Chinese Communist Party.
It coexists with communist Vietnam, autocratic Myanmar, theocratic Afghanistan, and democratic India, Australia, and Japan.
Beijing’s dispute with us is not that America is “a democracy.” China’s objections are that we block its ambitions and support the nations of South Asia and Southeast Asia that thwart its strategic goals.
The dispute is not ideological, but political and strategic.
So why turn it into a war of systems? Where is the evidence that Beijing is trying to communityize its neighbors or adapt their political system to its own?
However, there is substantial evidence that the United States is actively trying to undermine Putin’s rule in Russia.
Although Putin’s Kremlin is accused of hacking the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016, how does that compare to today’s U.S. meddling in Russia’s internal affairs, even if that’s true?
Are Radio Liberty / Radio Free Europe objective and neutral in their reporting in Russia? Are the many non-governmental organizations and the National Endowment for Democracy keeping Russia’s domestic politics at a distance?
What has the Kremlin done to fuel Donald Trump’s political ambitions compared to what our diplomatic and state institutions and quasi-state agencies seem to be doing to undermine Putin and advance Alexei Navalny’s candidacy?
If American democracy is at an ideological war with Russia, who is on the offensive here? Who wants to change whose political system?
“The national interest of the US and the promotion of democracy or at least political stability abroad are not so easy to separate,” writes the Washington Post.
But where does America get the right to meddle in the internal affairs of other nations to adapt them to our own?
If our goal is to democratize Russia and China, that is, to adapt their political system to our democratic one, isn’t that tantamount to an ideological declaration of war on our part?
Isn’t that the essence of ideological warfare?
And then who is the aggressor in this new ideological war?
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever.