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Politics & Current Affairs

Few Win When America Plays Kingmaker

After a host of American-supported dictators were recently ousted, President Obama has assumed the unlikely role of appointing new foreign leaders. Will he repeat the mistakes of the past?

What’s the Latest Development?

After decades of financial and diplomatic support, the U.S. finally told Egypt’s former president, Hosni Mubarak, that his time had come to leave the world’s stage. Subsequently, President Obama supported the ascension of Mohamed Hussein Tantawi to the top of Egypt’s provisional government. Mark Moyer says that the next empty chairs to need filling, equally at the behest of the U.S., will be in Libya and Yemen. But other recent appointments, such as Ahmad Chalabi in Iraq, have a dark underbelly—Chalabi was convicted of embezzling millions of dollars in Jordan. We need to do better research, says Moyer. 

What’s the Big Idea?

The U.S. plays both the role of king and kingmaker, though if who we make king were a judgement upon how we rule, we may have been dethroned long ago. America’s support for scandalous leaders, when countries are asking for more democratic rule, often undercut these democratic ambitions. It is a delicate balance to strike, to be sure. When Ibrahim al-Jaafari was elected to lead the provisional government of Iraq, his reprisals against Sunnis motivated the U.S. to depose him. The danger of kingmaking lies in creating a perpetual provisional government, robbing already fragile countries of a sense of stability.


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