In an essay for the Washington Post on 9/4, "Why they still hate us, 13 years later", Farreed Zakeria hits the nail on the head. His last two paragraphs leaves much food for thought.
"What did I miss in that essay 13 years ago? The fragility of these countries. I didn’t recognize that if the dictatorships faltered, the state could collapse, and that beneath the state there was no civil society — nor, in fact, a real nation. Once chaos reigned across the Middle East, people reached not for their national identities — Iraqi, Syrian — but for much older ones: Shiite, Sunni, Kurd and Arab.
I should have paid greater attention to my mentor in graduate school, Samuel Huntington, who once explained that Americans never recognize that, in the developing world, the key is not the kind of government — communist, capitalist, democratic, dictatorial — but the degree of government. That absence of government is what we are watching these days, from Libya to Iraq to Syria."
No one likes a dictator but if the alternative is chaos and beheadings it is a tolerable choice. In tailoring our foreign policy it is well to remember that one size does not fit all.