Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dealing with Dictators

Burma. USA. Kenya. Zimbabwe. Now Iran.

When Governments falsify election results or disregard them, they may delay the time when the will of the people is acknowledged, but they cannot keep the people down forever.

Democracy is not a Western concept, as some tend to want us to believe. Iran, where the drama is currently being played out, is also the site of one of the first, prehistoric, accounts of popular revolutions against an inhumane dictatorship.

Persian mythology relates how Jamshid, a great king who presided over the first great Persian civilisation, became undermined by his own arrogance and egotism, and fell to Zahak, a demonic figure who had daily human sacrifices. Eventually a blacksmith, Kaveh, stood up to him, leading a popular rebellion which succeeded in overthrowing the tyrant.

The tendency for Governments to cease serving, and start oppressing, the people of a country, is universal. It seems that staying in power too long destroys the human feeling of a ruler. Democratic elections are a sensible way of removing rulers from office without having to go through the cycle of oppression and bloodshed.

But democracy itself needs to be refreshed and renewed periodically. In Britain we have a sclerotic democratic system that produces box-and-cox changes in political leaders, while the real Government, in the form of the civil service, the financiers, the mega-corporations and the media, remains substantially unchanged. This needs to change, and sometime soon we will witness political reform in Britain.

Meanwhile, the UN needs to take action to inhibit the development of dictatorships, because dictators lead to civil unrest of the type we are seeing in Iran right now, as well as in China, Burma, Zimbabwe, and many other countries.

There are a clear succession of steps on the road to tyrrany. Political science students will know the details, but these are obvious stages that come to mind:
  • Control of media, shutting down independent sources.
  • Suppression and banning of democratic opposition
  • Disregarding of results of elections
  • Arrests of political opponents
The UN should have a tarrif of sanctions (targeted on the regime itself, not the people) that will be applied when each of these steps is taken by any regime, to be lifted when the regime rescinds its oppressive measures.

This replaces the present miasma of geo-politics with a powerful punishment and reward psychology that will be far more effective in inhibiting the development of tyrrany.

This argument is expanded here (scroll down to Appendix 4 - Dealing Effectively with Dictators).

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