Among other U.S. allies in the Cold War were Asian dictators and generals Chiang Kai-shek of China, Syngman Rhee and Park Chung-hee of South Korea, and Suharto of Indonesia.
Portugal's dictator Antonio Salazar and Spain's Gen. Francisco Franco were loyal allies against Bolshevism. Mobutu Sese Seko was for 32 years our man in the Congo, as Emperor Haile Selassie was in Ethiopia.
Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak were American allies and dictators of Egypt from 1970 to 2011, until, in the name of our democratic ideals, we threw our flawed friend Mubarak to the wolves.
What is the cause of our present angst over what is happening in Cairo? Our democratist ideals appear to have been run over by U.S. armored personnel carriers driven by Egyptian soldiers trained by the U.S. Army. Whether or not our interests have been advanced, our ideals seem to have been wounded.
Behind our ambivalence and paralysis may be found several truths. First, the Cold War, the life-or-death civilizational struggle that defined our times, is over. No vital U.S. interest is at risk in Egypt to justify military intervention or the shedding of American blood.
This is thus their problem, not ours, most Americans believe, and our influence is receding there, even as that of the British, French and Russians did before us. Let them work it out.
Testifying to this truth is the tape of Secretary of State John Kerry inspecting his yacht off Nantucket as the Egyptian regime fell, and Obama, after a brief National Security Council conclave, heading off for the golf course on the July 4 weekend, then on to Camp David.
Today, from Egypt to Lebanon to Syria and Iraq, it is Islamist against secularist, Sunni vs. Shia, tribe against tribe, those in power against those who want power. The Arab Spring has ushered in the Arab war of all against all.
That year 1848, when all the thrones of Europe were shaken by revolution, was a similar time. And those wise old war hawks of 1812, Henry Clay and John Calhoun, found themselves again on the same side.
America, they said, should stay out.
"Masterly inactivity" is our role, said Calhoun. Added Clay, "Avoiding the distant wars of Europe, we should keep our lamp burning brightly on this Western shore as a light to all the nations than to hazard its utter extinction amid the ruins of fallen or falling republics."