Preserve the Dignity of Dictators

Here’s an idea. Let them keep the money.

Imagine you are an unscrupulous dictator of a nation, and have spent the past several decades squirreling away vast sums in foreign banks. Your leadership is routinely characterized (but in a cautious whisper) as brutal and ruthless. You have chosen the worst of the rat-bag scum to act as your enforcers, and all the while the misery of the populace fails to elicit the slightest of feelings of regret or guilt for you are entitled. One day you wake up to find your once cowering mob is now angry and demanding you go. Your move.

Now, dictators don’t become dictators solely out of desire to accumulate wealth and luxury, but out of a genuine thirst for power. But, like every senior citizen, the piss and vinegar wains with age, and at some point the reasons for clinging to power become vanity and lifestyle and comfort. So, to find yourself in a position where everything you value is collapsing; your foreign assets frozen, your personal safety in question, your property seized, your dignity stripped away, is obviously frightening and can provoke all manner of unfortunate responses.

Buy them out. Egypt proved relatively bloodless, but as every Mid-East expert will tell you, a similar try for regime change in Syria would be a bloodbath. Mubarak’s only choice was to delay and squirm and eventually capitulate – the army wasn’t about to open fire, and nor could they with the foreign press everywhere. Incidentally, it was the TV camera, not Twitter, that made that revolution successful and safe. Sorry to spoil that obvious analysis boner.

However, in less developed and connected nations, headed by regimes whose policing method is pubescent males in pickup trucks high on cocaine and armed with AK47s, the leadership will be subject to all kinds of violent retribution should a revolution be successful. Solution? Give them citizenship and a villa in the south of France. Really.

Slate gleefully published a piece on how Mubarak’s Swiss accounts were frozen. The delight at seeing a greedy dick having his loot ripped away from him is natural enough, but all I could think was “This is exactly why dictators cling to power with such desperation, until the last possible moment.” It might be fair dues that Mubarak lose his shirt, but the pragmatist in me sees the revolution ending on day eight and not eighteen as the far better option. Not to mention how the rest of the autocratic sect are going to react when their positions are threatened.

It may leave a bad taste, but get over it we will.

Robin Lindsay



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