You sure can learn a lot of neat stuff from reading an atlas. According to Rand McNally’s 2000 World Atlas, for instance, there are no dictators anywhere on earth. It says so right in the “World Political Information Table.” Sure, there’s the occasional “socialist republic” — noted garden spots China, Cuba, Egypt, Laos, Libya, North Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria and Vietnam. The Golan Heights is “occupied by Israel,” and the West Bank and Gaza Strip are “Israeli territor[ies] with limited self-government.” Sounds way nicer to be an “autonomous region,” like Tibet.
The United States is a “federal republic,” a distinction we share with Austria, Brazil, Germany, Mexico and Russia. Which makes it difficult to understand why we’d be going to war with a fellow (albeit neither federal nor socialist) “republic” like Iraq.
Afghanistan is listed, uniquely, as “transitional.” Heh.