The U.S. government gets little credit for it, doesn’t even like to brag about it, but as of 2017 provided military “aid” to 73% of the world’s dictatorships. Ocassionally, the U.S. turns against one of its dictators and chooses that moment to tell everyone about him: Hussein, Noriega, Gadaffi, Assad. Sometimes it loses a dictator for other reasons: the Shah of Iran, Hosni Mubarak.
Sometimes the U.S. imposes a U.S. dictator on a foreign colony: as historically in the Philippines, or Haiti, Chile, or post-“liberation” Iraq. More often it selects and trains, imposes and props up a dictator from within the population of “natives” or “savages.” And sometimes such a dictator spends many years in the United States preparing and awaiting opportunity.
When I heard that Juan Guaido, a graduate of George Washington University in Washington, D.C., had proclaimed himself president of Venezuela, I was reminded that his fellow GW (and Harvard and Princeton) graduate Syngman Rhee was flown to South Korea by the United States government and put in charge of the place, and given the power to commit massive atrocities — the greatest of which was pushing the Korean peninsula into war. Does George Washington University recruit students with promises of small distant countries in which to have life-and-death power over the primitives?
Then Khalifa Haftar hit the news again. This guy lived in Falls Church, Virginia, from around 1990 to 2007, and Vienna, Virginia, until 2011. If you’re not from Fairfax County, Virginia, you should know that you could practically topple over a pyramid of naked Muslim prisoners on the roof of the CIA in Langley, Virginia, and land some of them in Falls Church or Vienna. Haftar was exported to Libya multiple times during those years in failed attempts to take the place over. His latest attempt has been ongoing since the United States exported him in 2011. Maybe there is an area of U.S. exports other than weaponry that is increasing.
Haftar is not unique. The D.C. area harbors a number of dictators in waiting less well known than Mike Pence. There’s Crown Prince Ahmad Shah Khan and various other members of the Afghan royal family. There’s Iranian Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi, the son of the last dictator whom the United States imposed on Iran from 1953 to 1979. Pahlavi lives in Potomac, Maryland, (across the river from Langley) and openly advocates for an overthrow of the Iranian government (because 1953 has worked out so well?) or, as the Washington Post puts it, “runs an advocacy association that is outspoken about the need for democracy in his home country.”
Now, call me crazy, but I’d like to leave it up to the people of Iran to run their own country, free of sanctions, lies, and threats. But the dictator-export industry does not seem to me to be completely without value. Surely there must be some place to which — despite his troubled apprenticeship — we can now export Donald Trump.