Dealing with dictators: Why the West sanctions some and rewards others

(By Deutsche Welle) The US and EU have long condemned the dictatorship in Belarus. Yet Arab strongmen like Hosni Mubarak and Moammar Gadhafi received military support from the West. How should Washington and Brussels deal with dictators?

Grassroots uprisings have gripped not just the Arab World as of late. Last December, around 15,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Minsk to challenge the manipulated presidential election that awarded long-time Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko another term in office with 80 percent of the vote.

The Belarusian security apparatus struck back and effectively decapitated the opposition. Around 600 protesters were arrested as well as eight of the nine candidates who ran against Lukashenko. In a little over a month, the EU and the US had imposed travel restrictions and asset freezes on more than 150 members of the country’s political elite.

But as uprisings spread across North Africa and the Mideast, both the EU and the US responded tepidly as friendly dictators like Hosni Mubarak and Moammar Gadhafi used violence against peaceful protesters to maintain their grip on power. In the case of Mubarak, sanctions were not imposed at all. And although the US and EU condemned the recent violence in Libya, imposed sanctions and have now launched military action, they have a history of cooperating with Gadhafi’s now embattled dictatorship.

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