The human experience should have taught us that just getting rid of a particular dictatorship is only half the struggle. We must always ask what's going to replace it. The 1917 Russian revolution got rid of the Czars only to be replaced by the far greater brutality of the Bolsheviks under Joseph Stalin and his successors. In China, Chiang Kai-shek's dictatorial rule was replaced by Mao Tse-tung's unprecedented barbarity, which became responsible for the deaths of 76 million Chinese. Cuba's Fulgencio Batista's dictatorship was replaced with that of Fidel Castro. The injustices of Western colonialism in Africa were replaced with homegrown brutal dictators who murdered their citizens.
In most countries in the Middle East, the collection of human rights that Westerners know as personal liberty is nonexistent. According to Freedom House's 2011 "Freedom in the World" survey, as well as Amnesty International's annual report for 2011, most North African and Middle Eastern countries are ranked either "repressive" or "not free." Moreover, I believe there's little prospect for liberty and whatever the West tries to promote in terms of liberty is doomed to failure and disappointment. The fact of the matter is that nations in the Middle East do not share the cultural and philosophical foundations of the West that created its respect for the rule of law and private property rights.
What should the West do about the gross violations of human rights so prevalent in North Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere? My short answer is: mind our own business and only intervene when there are direct threats to our national defense or economic interests. Otherwise, what they want to do to one another is none of our business.
Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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