Is “Autocracy” America’s Mortal Enemy?, by Patrick Buchanan

In the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Joe Biden told the nation and the world, “We are once again engaged in a great battle for freedom. A battle between democracy and autocracy.

During her trip to Taiwan, President Nancy Pelosi echoed Biden: “Today the world faces a choice between democracy and autocracy. America’s determination to preserve democracy here in Taiwan and in the world remains foolproof.”

But is this really the global struggle America finds itself in today?

Is this the great challenge and the threat for the United States?

Are autocracy and democracy in a decisive ideological crusade to determine the fate of humanity?

For if that is the future, it is surely not America’s past.

Indeed, over the two centuries of America’s rise to global pre-eminence and power, autocrats have proven invaluable allies.

When the fate of the Revolution hung in the balance in 1778, an autocratic French king’s decision to go to war on the side of the United States delighted General George Washington, and French intervention proved decisive in the Battle of Yorktown in 1781 which secured our independence.

A decade later, King Louis XVI would be overthrown in the French Revolution and guillotined along with Queen Marie Antoinette.

During World War I in 1918, the United States sent millions of soldiers to fight in France. They proved decisive in the victory over the Kaiser’s Germany.

Our allies in this Great War?

The British, French, Russian, Italian and Japanese empires, the greatest imperial and colonial powers of the time.

In our war against Japan from 1941 to 1945, our main Asian ally was the autocratic Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek of China.

In our war against Hitler’s Germany, America’s crucial ally who fought more than any other to secure victory, Joseph Stalin of the USSR, was the greatest tyrant of his time.

During the Korean War from 1950 to 1953, the leader of the South Korean regime was dictator-autocrat Syngman Rhee.

For four decades of the Cold War before the collapse and break-up of the Soviet Empire and the Soviet Union, autocrats were allies of the United States. The Shah of Iran. General Augusto Pinochet of Chile. Anastasio Somoza from Nicaragua. General Francisco Franco of Spain. Anwar Sadat of Egypt. The kings and princes of Saudi Arabia.

During this Cold War, India was the largest democracy in the world and most often sided with communist Russia rather than the United States. Autocratic Pakistan was our ally.

Gary Powers’ U-2 flight, shot down over the Soviet Union, initiated in Pakistan, as did Henry Kissinger’s secret mission to China in 1971 to stage the historic 1972 Nixon-Mao meeting.

Throughout the Arab and Muslim world during the Cold War, many of our key friends and allies were kings, emirs and sultans – all autocrats.

Yemen’s seven-year war, in which US air support has been indispensable, was waged by the Saudi monarchy to prevent Houthi rebels from retaining the power they seized in a revolution.

American-Saudi objective: to restore a deposed autocrat.

This recitation is not to argue that autocracy is superior to democracy, but to demonstrate that the domestic politics of foreign countries, especially in times of war, have rarely been America’s primary concern.

The crucial question, and rightly so, is usually this: is this autocrat enlisted in the same cause as us, and fighting alongside us? If so, the autocrat has almost always been welcome.

When the Arab Spring broke out and the 30-year rule of dictatorial President Hosni Mubarak came to an end, we applauded the free elections that brought Mohamed Morsi, a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, to power.

A year later, Morsi was ousted in a military coup and power seized by General Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, prompting Secretary of State John Kerry to rejoice that the Egyptian army “restores democracy”.

Kerry explained that Morsi’s removal was at the request of “millions and millions of people”.

Since then, the number of political prisoners held by Sisi has risen to tens of thousands.

If Pelosi and Biden see the global struggle as between autocracy and democracy, a question arises: As the leader of the democracy camp in this global struggle, why don’t we insist that our allies in places such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and Oman are beginning to hold regular elections to bring to power legitimate democratic leaders, rather than the autocrats currently occupying the seats of the power ?

And there is a historical question about the Biden-Pelosi portrayal of the global struggle for the future between autocracy and democracy.

When did the internal political arrangements of foreign nations – there are 194 of them now – become a major concern of a country whose founding fathers wanted it to stay out of foreign strife and foreign wars?

America “does not go abroad looking for monsters to destroy,” said Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. “She is the benevolent of the freedom and independence of all. She is only the champion and defender of hers.”

And so it was, a long time ago.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of “Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever.” To learn more about Patrick Buchanan and read articles by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators website at

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