Condoleezza Rice, President George W Bush’s nominee as secretary of state, has identified “outposts of tyranny” where the US must help bring freedom.

They are Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Burma and Belarus. ~BBC News

Even I will agree that the governments in these countries are more or less dreadful (though some are no worse than some ‘democracies’ in Africa), though the inclusion of Belarus, Cuba and Iran is ridiculous in comparison with the others. Two of these three states, Iran and Cuba, suffer from being on the bad side of domestic American lobbies–otherwise, no reasonable calculation of the oppressiveness of their regimes would merit inclusion in this list with some of these others (unless we were to include China and Turkmenistan among the worst). Belarus’ Lukashenka is an embarrassment even to one-time ally Vladimir Putin, and no one would be happier to see him gone than the government in Moscow, but its government is less repressive than that of democratic Thailand, which has engaged in a massive killing spree in recent years in its own dubious “drug war” dishonestly tied to anti-terrorist rhetoric. Belarus was put on the list as the last remaining former Soviet republic outside Russia not yet gobbled up by some ‘pro-Western reformer’ type. Any move against Belarus would likely be the last straw with Moscow, reeling from a string of insults over the past three years.

Without a doubt, Robert Mugabe’s regime is oppressive and has been a disaster for the once-prosperous Zimbabwe, the junta in Burma is brutal and North Korea is a horrid nightmarish state. Now comes the inevitable question: what of it? Is it worth staking still more reputation, blood and resources on the line to ‘fix’ these countries that do not, by any objective estimation, have strategic importance for assuring the United States’ security? American security interests dictate keeping these regimes from completely collapsing of their own dead weight, not recreating the mayhem of post-Saddam Iraq on four continents. Burma in particular is a political landmine, as its regime has become increasingly tied to China for military, political and economic support.

The managed, careful dissolution of the Soviet Union averted what might have become a a series of destructive conflicts over the succession. The approach to these others should be no different. Calling them “outposts of tyranny,” and then Mr. Bush following up by promising to “end tyranny” on earth, sends a perfectly clear signal: these regimes will be liquidated by Washington one way or another in the coming few years, if Mr. Bush has anything to say about it. Only in Burma would the democrats surrounding Aung San Suu Kyi be remotely prepared to assume a serious leadership role within the next decade.

From the American perspective, which is surely the one that ought to matter most to the American president, there is no practicable way to enforce his vision on the other five countries save his preferred method of violence. Even if his goals were remotely in the American interest, which they are not, he cannot achieve them without unnecessary costs to our country and our armed forces.