An interesting idea that produces mixed results. During the Cold War the United States found itself allied to some highly unsavory leaders and regimes. They were tyrants but, to paraphrase Franklin Roosevelt's remark about the elder Somoza, they were our tyrants. This collection of essays includes most of the obvious candidates but some dubious ones as well-such as the South Vietnamese leaders, the king of Jordan and Mexican presidents-who hardly qualify as tyrants. Some "tyrants" began as rather moderate alternatives (Suharto); others were even revolutionaries (Ferdinand Marcos). Paul Henze on the Turkish military leaders, Adam Garfinkle on the Greek colonels and Barry Rubin on the shah of Iran are among the better chapters. The coeditors set the stage effectively with an introductory essay that points out that even when such alliances were mandated by valid American geopolitical requirements, once a crisis developed, the media spotlight focused on the regressive character of these regimes, and American policy came under increasing pressure. In his concluding essay on policy Richard Haass argues that the overt use of force is rarely justified; but if a regime changes, American policy should be "flexible," inclined to support fledgling democracies, but broadly defined.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.