Thus occasionally to tyrants

Ric Locke argues that taking a hard line with the world’s tyrants is ultimately counterproductive:

There are many more tyrants in the World, some of them worse than Mubarak on his worst day. Our goal should be to get rid of all of them. The task is made immeasurably more difficult if the tyrants know that, if they lose their grip on power, they will end up being nibbled to death by ducks. Tyrants have the machineries of State under their fingertips, and can (and demonstrably do) take whatever measures they think they might need for self-protection. The net effect is tighter tyrannies that are more difficult to dislodge, everywhere.

Emphasis in the original. An example for consideration:

Which would you prefer: Hosni Mubarak living a life of ease in the Gulf States and hobnobbing with Saudi Princes on a basis of near-parity, thus inspiring Muammar Qaddafi to expect the same soft landing — or a frail old man subjected to a show trial for Crimes Against Humanity while Mugabe and the Iranian Mullahs hire more “security” thugs, and the Chinese Politburo rounds up dissidents?

Normally I’d be scornful of this particular flavor of Realpolitik, and there’s nothing emotionally satisfying in seeing persons of this ilk not being Ceauşescued into oblivion; but suppose Locke’s called this one right?

It’s not at all clear how many tyrants would be willing to let go if offered a soft landing. It is totally clear that if the soft landing isn’t possible, such retirements will not occur. What will happen, guaranteed, is more firing squads, broken heads, jail cells, and Internet clampdowns, as the remaining tyrants move to reinforce their power base.

Which leads to a question I suspect must be inevitable: is there enough presumably-filthy lucre available to buy out the lot of them?

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6 comments

  1. Lisa Paul »

    16 February 2011 · 5:01 pm

    You must be eligible for some sort of award for using Ceauşescu as a verb!

  2. Ric Locke »

    16 February 2011 · 6:03 pm

    To clarify: I’m not against “taking a hard line with the world’s tyrants.” What I’m against is Pinochetting[*] them if they go with minimum struggle.

    If there comes an uprising, and the dictator realizes the people don’t want him any more (whether or not they did originally), a future that includes a sunny beach and pretty girls bringing him drinks with fruit with little sticks on in them might incline him to just go; if he knows it’s gonna be Interpol, kangaroo courts, and jail cells, you can count on him to hold on with every means at his disposal, and some of those means get real ugly real fast. Getting him out ought to be the priority.

    And no, there’s no reason or need to buy them out. They mostly manage to embezzle enough that any offer we might make would be, at best, matching funds. Maybe we should set up an isolated place for retired tyrants to build palaces and live out their days. Guantanamó, perhaps?

    Regards,
    Ric
    [verbing proper nouns is good fun, eh?]

  3. CGHill »

    16 February 2011 · 6:13 pm

    I played briefly with the idea of “Operation Ceauşescu,” but decided against it.

  4. Dan B »

    16 February 2011 · 7:07 pm

    >Maybe we should set up an isolated place for retired tyrants to build palaces and live out their days.

    … and then 3 months later we nuke the place.

  5. hatless in hattiesburg »

    16 February 2011 · 11:52 pm

    interesting idea. how can we know which ones are in it for “the perks” vs “the power”, or are true ideologues?

  6. no »

    17 February 2011 · 10:53 am

    *Which leads to a question I suspect must be inevitable: is there enough presumably-filthy lucre available to buy out the lot of them?*

    Well, there was 3 BILLION per annum since 1979 available to bribe them into not attacking Israel every few years. What do you think?

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