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They may argue that our broader national interests in the Middle East require temporarily overlooking the oppressive nature of those particular states, in order to serve a broader, pro-democratic endgame.

Such hogwash could be critiqued on many counts, of course, beginning with its class-biased presumptions about what constitutes US "national interests." But my survey of US support for dictatorships around the world demonstrates that our government's support for Saudi Arabia and Egypt are not exceptions to the rule at all. It was not easy to find out how many of the world's dictatorships are being supported by the United States. A commonly accepted definition of a "dictatorship" is a system of government in which one person or a small group possesses absolute state power, thereby directing all national policies and major acts -- leaving the people powerless to alter those decisions or replace those in power by any method short of revolution or coup.

For purposes of the present assessment, I used Freedom House's 2016 Freedom in the World report, even though its 2017 report is now available.

I did so because the 2016 report reflects its assessment of political rights and civil liberties as they existed in 2015, which would roughly correspond with the military assistance and arms sales data that I had available for federal fiscal year 2015 (October 1, 2014 - September 30, 2015) and calendar year 2015.

Of course, in the overwhelming majority of cases, nations with low political rights scores also have low civil liberties scores.

However, a political rights score of 6 or 7 corresponds most closely with our definition of dictatorship, based on Freedom House's characterization: 6 -- Countries and territories with a rating of 6 have very restricted political rights.

If its team of experts tilts toward a pro-US-government perspective, this means that it would indulge every presumption in favor of categorizing nations supported by the United States as dictatorships.

In other words, if even Freedom House categorizes a government backed by the United States as a dictatorship, one can be fairly confident that its assessment, in that instance, is accurate.

They may also lack an authoritative and functioning central government and suffer from extreme violence or rule by regional warlords. In effect, that simply means that it is ruled by two or more dictators instead of one.My count of 49 dictatorships in the world in 2015 excludes these subordinated or disputed state territories.For this step, I relied on four sources, the first two of which took considerable digging to locate: A.Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the greatest degree of freedom and 7 the smallest degree of freedom, corresponds to a specific range of total scores." For purposes of deciding whether a nation could be categorized as a "dictatorship," however, I focused only on the "political rights" scores, classifying nations with a political rights score of 6 or 7 as a dictatorship.This does not mean that civil liberties are unimportant, of course, but the objective here is to assess the degree of absolutism of the political leadership, not freedom of expression, press, etc.

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