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Allies: Barack Obama and Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, June 2009. Would we be better off avoiding friendships with less than desirable regimes?

“He may be a sonofabitch, but he’s our sonofabitch,” is how Franklin D Roosevelt described Nicaragua’s dictator, Anastasio Somoza, in the 1930s. Many enemies of the US, and more than a few friends, see this as the prevailing attitude of nearly every American president since. It is certainly assumed to have been the approach behind US support for Hosni Mubarak.

Recent events raise questions about whether the west should go in for the sort of realpolitik that fostered…

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