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Matt Yglesias, while defending realist foreign policy, nonetheless is morally adamant that dictatorial rule is morally wrong.

Ruling a country as a dictator is morally wrong…Killing protestors is even more morally wrong…If your only way to hold an office you don’t deserve is to shoot protestors, then you’re deep in the weeds of some morally wrong conduct. That’s obvious and it would seem bizarre for Obama…to voice any other kind of opinion on the matter.  But if the President of the United States says things, he’s expected to back them up with action. Which is fine. But action often isn’t warranted!

I don’t think it’s so bizarre to add some gray to black and white world of dictatorial decision-making.  There are unanswered questions that may mitigate or even justify the decision to shoot protestors.  If the protestors intend to overthrow your government, what type of government to they plan to install?  What’s the likelihood your country descends into anarchy?  History tells us that unexpected and terrible things can happen to countries when their political structures collapse; this seems like an outcome that everyone should be trying to avoid.  It seems quite likely there are cases where harsh rule to maintain stability is morally sound.  As Matt Yglesias points out, stability is a good thing.  And as Matt Yglesias also says, these issues are complex:

It’s difficult to understand world events by trying to reductively view everything as a struggle of visionary good guys against blood-stained tyrants…Politicians are normally a mixed bag, and need to be assessed as such.


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