Dictators and Dynasties, Tyrants and TerroristsPosted: December 10, 2011
It would not be unfair to say that 2011 has not been a good year for many of the above. Due in large part to the actions of protesters participating in the ‘Arab Spring’ revolutions across the Middle East and a renewed American determination to pursue terrorist networks with drone aircraft, several tyrannical regimes and terrorists have been ousted from power across the globe.
In the Middle East, what began with the self-immolation of a Tunisian street vendor in protest at the confiscation of his goods by local authorities led to wider political and social protests throughout Tunisia; this in turn providing the catalyst for similar ‘revolutions’ across the region. This series of events became known as the ‘Arab Spring’ and has since resulted in the downfall of the autocratic Tunisian, Egyptian, Libyan and Yemini governments.
Furthermore, Osama Bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaida, was eliminated after a daring raid into sovereign Pakistani territory by US Navy Seals. The information gathered from Bin Laden’s lair in turn led to the death of high ranking Al Qaida leader Al-Awlaki in Yemen following a CIA drone strike; his demise severely disrupting Al Qaida’s operations in the Arabian Peninsula and having the added bonus of taking out an important American born, internet savvy jihadist recruiter.
So, at the risk of making a series of fanciful predictions akin to the one made by Yale University economics professor Irving Fisher in 1929 when he stated that “stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau,” are further dictators and tyrants likely to fall in 2012?
Unfortunately the short answer is no, there are not. Despite all international media attention currently being focused upon Syria and its authoritarian President, Bashar Al-Assad, the end result is unlikely to result in victory for the protesters and rebels. For instance, although in a recent ludicrous interview with the American network ABC Assad claimed that he was not in full control of Syrian security forces, the United Nations has since stated that this is unlikely to be the case and that troops loyal to Assad will continue to brutally clamp down where needed.
Additionally, unlike Libya, there is virtually no chance of Western nations imposing a ‘no fly’ zone to protect civilians and remove Syrian armour to the benefit of protestors due to a lack of political, financial and public support. Instead, the United Nations has chosen to pursue a policy of enacting sanctions – although such sanctions are doomed to failure since there is a crucial lack of support from both Russia and China, and also because Syria has been an international pariah for years and is therefore well-versed in dealing with Western threats.
Similar to Syria in some respects, the North Korean state under the ‘Supreme Leader’ Kim Jong Il is also unlikely to buckle soon. Isolationist, isolated and weak, the country is often referred to as a Stalinist dictatorship with one of the lowest human rights rankings of any country.
Despite such horrors and other issues such as a widespread famine and continued international pressure, the family dynasty has remained intact and is likely to do so for the foreseeable future – mainly due to the elaborate government controls on all aspects of North Korean life.
Presently, one of the only authoritarian countries showing signs of potentially abandoning autocracy is China. With the prospect of increased personal wealth and travel opportunities for millions of urban Chinese threatening the absolute authority of the Communist Party, the Chinese leadership has begun to slowly grant citizens more personal freedoms in a bid to retain control.
Even with such a small increase in personal freedoms it should still be noted that there is still complete government control of the media and political system. Political protesters and citizens routinely go ‘missing’ and many never return, often presumed to have been executed by the authorities.
Whilst still a cause for concern, if compared with the paths taken by other industrially advanced countries it is hoped that further Chinese economic development will fuel deeper international involvement and responsibility; this in theory leading to increased personal freedoms and an abandonment of authoritarian practices. It is unlikely however that this process will occur anytime soon, even if such predictions were to prove correct.
Despite what would appear to be an overwhelmingly negative outlook with regards to disposing of more dictators, tyrants and terrorists, the future is actually not as bleak as it may seem at a first glance. Not only are my predictions just that – predictions – but they are also based on rationale and logic; both these things are inherently difficult to apply to the constantly morphing world of international politics.
An example of this constantly morphing political world can be seen during the height of the Cold War when despite high-level meetings between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev no political commentator from either the East or West predicted the fall of the Berlin Wall and collapse of the Soviet Union. Instead, complacency and a purely accidental misunderstanding on the part of Soviet press secretary Günter Schabowski led to the downfall of Communism in Europe.
There are also far more dictators, dynasties, terrorists and tyrants remaining in the world than covered in this article; these including the governments of states such as Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Burma as well as the second in command of Al Qaida, Al Zawahiri. Each has their own unique circumstances and to analyse all would be a task of enormous undertaking.
And to answer the question posed earlier in the article? Yes, there are many despicable people and governments left in power and yes they will eventually fall. History has repeatedly proven this. All that remains to be seen is how, when and where.