Friday, March 04, 2011

Dealing with Gadhaffi

Imagine you are a dictator and you are facing an insurrection. Obviously your first impulse will be to crush it. You have gotten power by crushing your opponents and you have kept by occasionally crushing them. Your thinking is not that different from a traditional parent: a good spanking and they will fall in line.

But this time it is different. This don't fall in line and they keep making trouble. Obviously a bit more repression is needed. And before you know it you are in a spiral of escalating violence. It doesn't help that you feel threatened and are worried about what might happen to you and your family if you might loose power.

It is probable that at some point you will give in. Your opponents are simply too strong and despite all the violence you are using you still have some love for your people too and you don't want to make victims when it isn't necessary. But it will take time for you to make the switch: you dreamed of growing old in your job and having your son to succeed you and now you have to give that up for an unclear future where you might even end up in prison or killed.

An ICC investigation won't deter you: 10, 100 or 1000 victims won't make much of a difference for an ICC verdict. You are an old man and if they get you you will very likely spend the rest of your life in prison anyway. But it will make the step of giving up power bigger. Now you not only have to give up your power but also your freedom. And you find it unfair. Dealing with life and death is part of the job of a head of state. Just look how many people are dying in Afghanistan because of some orders of Obama. And if there were riots in the US or some other Western country the police might very well use deadly violence.

Thing were easier for your predecessors who simply retired to a villa on the French Riviera. Nowadays an ex-dictator never is totally safe. Even Pinochet who had made a a deal for himself in his homeland Chili ended up under English house arrest for 16 months.

So how might a dictator like Gadhaffi be seduced to give up power?.
In my opinion there is only one way: appeal to his humanity. Tell him that it is over and that making more victims will only harm his image with future generations. Send someone who Gadhaffi respects and let him talk to him endlessly. Make also appeals to his family members and associates. And keep a door open so that he can leave with at least some dignity.

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