Dictators Aren't Just Born Overnight

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Juan Williams the liberal/conservative pundit admonishes the U.S. to continue to oppose Fidel Castro and Cuba's joining of the Summit of the Americas because democracies shouldn't do business with dictatorships.

The Fox News contributor tells the story of how he was born in Panama but moved at the age of four with his mother and siblings to the United States to avoid the tyranny of Arnulfo Arias.

Williams writes:

Panama has less poverty than most Latin nations. But even here economic hopelessness has a history of being a breeding ground for dictators playing to the frustrations of the poor.


The reason my father insisted that my mother take the children out of Panama in the 1950s was fear of a Castro-like, populist dictator, Arnulfo Arias. A Nazi supporter during World War II, Arias later took businesses away from U.S. and European investors by insisting on Panamanian ownership. He profited from stoking racial antagonism against Asian and black immigrants who built the canal and made Panama a center of international trade. Arias even tried to divest black West Indians, such as my father, of Panamanian citizenship.

Dictators sap the life out of a country and cause grinding poverty without any hope of betterment.

In their thirst for socialism and power, despots appeal to the poorer classes to gain support of the masses.  They build up their circle of sympathizers and set them into powerful positions to create a closed circuit whereby no lawful body can penetrate the corruption.

But the question must be asked: "When did Arias or Castro or even Hitler take on his megalomaniacal persona?"

Dictators, like all human beings, go through stages of moral or immoral development.  At some point in their lives, they were not known as the tyrants they came to be.

Before Castro was prime minister of Cuba, he was a revolutionary with radical ideas.  He lived the Marxist-Leninist ideology -- all the while publicly denying being a communist -- and fought to overthrow the dictator Batista.  He promised the Cuban people they would have a multi-party political system with fair elections, but in truth, he seized more and more autocratic control.

One of the first indications that Castro was to become "caudillo," or dictator, was when he began ruling by decree -- just the opposite of what he had promised the people who wanted to throw off the previous regime.

Mr. Williams rightly advises steering clear of a deceptive enemy like Castro, but surely the reporter must also concede that dictators are honed over time.  He would do well to remember that dictators were once aspiring radicals who may not have had a title, but revealed their tyrannical intentions all the same.

When does a dictator become a dictator?

Let's look at our own leaders' gestures and compare them to the nascent despotic signals of radicals and socialists who eventually became the kind of people Williams rejects.

Read more Ann Kane at Potter Williams Report.