During a question and answer session at an event host by the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu field a question from AEI’s Danielle Pletka about secular dictators in place in the Middle East, which included Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad, and whether or not they should be preferred over democracy that may elect regimes that pose a greater threat.
According to Netanyahu, it was a case of “bad and worse” and part of leadership he argue was having the ability to make that distinction. In this case, he said the so-called “neighborhood bullies” of Saddam, Gaddafi and Assad constituted less of a threat.
Remarks as follows:
“Now mind you, Saddam was a horrible, horrible, brutal killer, so was Gaddafi, there’s no question about that. I had my own dealings with each of them. But I do want to say that they were, in many ways, neighborhood bullies. That is, they tormented their immediate environment but they were not wedded to a larger goal.
“The militant Islamists, either Iran leading the militant Shiites with their proxies, Hezbollah and Islamic jihad and Hamas, even though Hamas is a Sunni … Or the militant Sunnis led by Daesh—by ISIS—they have a larger goal in mind. Their goal is not merely the conquest of the Middle East, it’s the conquest of the world.
“It’s unbelievable, people don’t believe that. They don’t believe that it’s possible to have this quest for an imamate or a caliphate in the 21st century, but that is exactly what is guiding them. And against this larger threat that would present two Islamic states. One, the Islamic state of Daesh, and the other the Islamic Republic of Iran, each one of them is seeking to arm themselves with weapons of mass death. Chemical weapons in the case of ISIS, nuclear weapons in the case of Iran. That poses a formidable threat to our world.
“Therefore, if I have to categorize the threats, I would say that these are the larger threats. Doesn’t mean you have to form alliances with secular dictatorships, it means you have to categorize ‘what is the larger threat?’ And that is something that I think is required from all of us. Political leadership involves always choosing between bad and worse. I seldom have had a choice between bad and good. I welcome it when it happens, but these are by far the easiest choices. It’s choosing between bad and worse that defines a good part of leadership, and I think I know how to choose that.”
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