David Schmitz reviews the record of U.S. failures in choosing foreign leaders to prop up and concludes that the U.S. ought to stop trying all together:
While the United States has the power to overthrow governments and prop up leaders, it cannot install political legitimacy along with power. But that lesson is never learned in Washington, and previous failures are dismissed as stemming from their shortcomings or our lack of will.
Schmitz describes the familiar problems that the U.S. has when it tries to prop up a client ruler. The local ruler has strong incentives to ignore U.S. preferences when they clash with his political interests, and the more that the U.S. supports him the more that he has to demonstrate his independence by publicly opposing at least some U.S. actions. The U.S. assumes from the start that it will have far more influence than it will ever have, and that creates frustration when the local ruler doesn’t do what the U.S. wants, which prompts the U.S. to start casting around looking for a replacement. The U.S. inevitably doesn’t know the politics of the country very well, which blinds it to the unrealistic nature of its goals and the flaws of its client ruler. Even if the U.S. understood the other country very well, it still wouldn’t know how to manipulate the politicians of another country because that degree of influence and control over the internal affairs of another state isn’t possible. The attempt to wield that degree of influence and control over another country is inherently misguided and futile, and it will end in failure for U.S. policy and sorrow for the country in question.