It turns out we need dictators.

As abhorrent as they are to American sensibilities, in some parts of the world, peace and stability depend on a strong man.

And the sad reality is we’ve killed them all.

The sad reality is that American foreign and military policy in recent years have destabilized great swathes of the Muslim world, resulting in unimaginable horrors for something approaching 200 million people.

We have also dramatically undercut our influence in that part of the world, empowered enemies and ideologies that want to exterminate us, and endangered or eliminated faithful allies.

Further, we have allowed for the ongoing formation of a region ruled by the most extreme of religious zealots, people who embrace death and slaughter as divine rites. In Islam’s often bloody fight for its own soul and direction, we have tipped the balance toward the throat slitters and suicide-vest wearers.

There are few periods in modern history where so many bad decisions by one power have so destabilized the world and its future.

Biblical Armageddon may one day be fought in Jerusalem, but time may show that its origins were sadly found in Washington. 

In part because we took down the strongmen.

Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Gaddafi.

Hussein was a genocidal butcher, Gaddafi was an active enemy of America.

But they kept a lid on things. And taking those lids off has left the pots of Muslim violence to overflow and wreak havoc.

As Iraq falls to al-Qaida linked forces, as soil bought with American blood is swept up by an Islamist caliphate, there is no denying that things are far worse now than they were before the first American boot was on the ground. If there was concern in 2002 that Iraq might provide support for terrorism, there can be no doubt today that the forces sweeping across the region are completely terroristic in nature.

As we hatched our plot to invade, and a subsequent administration resolved to abandon, we transformed an oppressive but stable nation into a savage, blood-stained no-man’s land. By so doing, we empowered a neighboring nation – Iran – which steadily toils on the nuke that it hopes to one day detonate in Times Square.

As instability came to Syria, instead of bolstering and thereby defining the resistance, we abandoned the matter and watched as the worst of Islamists filled the void. Those Islamists may soon besiege the Iraqi capital, while the army we trained and equipped abandons the field, its uniforms and arms heaped in piles by cowards and deserters.

In Egypt and Mubarak, we had our most stable ally in the Muslim world. It protected Suez and its shipping, and stabilized Israel and its democracy. We had 30 years of reliable cooperation and teamwork. Egyptian society was authoritarian but successful. The Egyptian president allowed his people the freest life in the Arab Middle East.

And we pushed him out.

We empowered the Muslim Brotherhood and pretended we were democrats. 

We lost our ally, Egyptians lost their stability and prosperity, and now their system of government is in the wind.

In Libya and Gaddafi, we had a blood enemy who had bowed to our demands and sought to make amends. When we demanded surrender of weapons of mass destruction, Gaddafi complied. When we demanded change to support of mischief and terrorism, Gaddafi complied.

But we killed him anyway.

It cost us an ambassador and three others.

And it has left Libya an Islamist hellhole, another collapsed society where people live in fear and privation and the most ruthless of Muslim fanatics have risen to the top.

We took out the strongmen and devastated their societies. The everyday lives of countless people across the region are demonstrably and dramatically worse because of what this administration and its predecessor have done. We have fertilized the seedbed of apocalyptic jihadis who are certain the road to heaven is paved with the blood of infidels like ourselves and our allies.

The millennia-old Christian communities in Iraq, Egypt and Libya have been wiped out in the last five years. Women have been beaten into a savagely imposed underclass. Education and modernity have been made capital offenses. Electricity and municipal water and sewer, as well as modern trade economies, have been lost to tens of millions. A new Dark Age has commenced, and we have fueled the fire.

And next year we turn Afghanistan over to the Taliban.

Our foreign policy has failed, and worse.