The question in the title is one of the hardest in our field. I just wrote a Wall Street Journal book review critical of the Meles' government in Ethiopia. I got some supportive letters from Ethiopians, but a Political Science Ph.D. student named Hamere wrote me as follows:
Hello William, It is a pity that you produced such a hate and politics charged article against my country, Ethiopia and its leadership... What we have is simply visionary, caring, developmental and strong leadership.
I criticize others for intrusively intervening in poor countries, or advocating intervention, especially with outside military force. So what am I doing meddling in Ethiopian politics?
It's important to distinguish between talk and action. It's consistent with free values to criticize tyranny everywhere. It doesn't follow that one or more outside powers should overthrow any one tyrant, or indeed tyrants everywhere. The following box suggests the range of alternatives.
Aid agencies don't even criticize specific tyrannical acts, although they might advocate "good goverance," and they wind up supporting bad governments with aid funds. This is ironically the same box that the Cold War support for allied dicators used to be in, and still includes support of bad governments who are "War on Terror" allies (including Ethiopia).
Neo-cons (and their liberal twins, the humanitarian military interveners) want to both speak and act against bad government.
Isolationists want to just ignore tyranny elsewhere.
I'm drawn to the "talk, not act" box, which I've labeled "libertarian". Advocate passionately for free values, human rights, the freedom of political prisoners, but don't presume to socially re-engineer someone else's society in the name of those values.