Recent events in Tunisia suggest two lessons. First, the west is wrong to think of old dictators as useful allies. Like other longstanding authoritarian despots before him, President Ben Ali managed to convince the United States (and also western allies like France and the UK), that the repressive nature of his regime was essential for regional stability. In this case, his bloated police state was viewed as a necessary inconvenience by western diplomats, given the alleged threat of radical Islam, even if it meant that the West was maintaining close diplomatic relations with a corrupt and
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