Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Spot the Missing Dictatorship

Dictators and failed states. Say what you like about the most barbarous regimes on the planet, they make good filler for publications with acres of space but no budget beyond covering an internet connection. The latest to go down this route is Foreign Policy magazine, a sort of New Scientist for the Washington Beltway and international relations geeks. Because it is an American publication its outlook is very much representative of the middle ground of US foreign policy debates. So it came as no surprise its June issue's list of the world's worst 23 dictators broadly reflects American geopolitical interests. It was hardly shocking to see the likes of Kim Jong Il, Robert Mugabe, Raul Castro and Hu Jintao getting name checked.

Here's the list compiled by George B.N. Ayittey, president of the Beltway-based Free Africa Foundation:
1. Kim Jong Il (North Korea)
2. Rober Mugabe (Zimbabwe)
3. General Than Shwe (Burma)
4. Omar Hassan Al-Bashir (Sudan)
5. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov (Turkmenistan)
6. Isaias Afwerki (Eritrea)
7. Islam Karimov (Uzbekistan)
8. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Iran)
9. Melez Zenawi (Ethiopia)
10. Hu Jintao (China)
11. Muammar Al-Qaddafi (Libya)
12. Bashar Al-Assad (Syria)
13. Idriss Deby (Chad)
14. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (Equitorial Guinea)
15. Hosni Mubarak (Egypt)
16. Yahya Jammeh (Gambia)
17. Hugo Chavez (Venezuela)
18. Blaise Compaore (Burkina Faso)
19. Yoweri Museveni (Uganda)
20. Paul Kagame (Rwanda)
21. Raul Castro (Cuba)
22. Aleksandr Lukashenko (Belarus)
23. Paul Biya (Cameroon)
A couple of quibbles. Strictly speaking, I don't think Ahmadinejad can be described as a dictator. Yes, he's an unpleasant demagogue who's overseen the brutal crushing of dissent after last year's disputed Iranian elections. But real power resides in the theocratic apparatus headed by the Supreme Leader, Ali Khameni. Ahmadinejad's government is merely "democratic" window dressing, not unlike the constitutional set up in Imperial Germany.

I can't say the inclusion of Hugo Chavez in a list of dictators came like a bolt out of the blue. I suppose someone has to be Washington's favourite new Latin American bogeyman now Fidel Castro has retired. Yes, the Bolivarian revolution is manifesting authoritarian features (paraphrasing Engels, there is nothing more authoritarian than a revolution) but facts are stubborn things: Chavez and his movement have won more elections than any serving leader of a liberal democratic government.

But what is interesting is the omission of a barbaric dictatorship vital to US strategic interests. Can anyone identify the regime that wasn't invited to the
Foreign Policy dictators' party?


tim f said...

Saudi Arabia?

There are others in that list I would quibble with, too. Museveni for a start. And if you include Rwanda then perhaps Russia should be included too.

Simon said...

Interesting exemption of the absolute monarchs in general.

Meanwhile non-tyranies with functioning constitutional governments (regardless of how democratic they are) are included.

Phil said...

Got it in one, Tim. Yup, Saudi Arabia. I'm sure it's only an oversight on FP's part not to include the world's largest oil producer and key US strategic client in the Middle East. This remains a country where you can face the death penalty for "sorcery".

andy newman said...

Liechtenstein, is also missing from the list.

Prine Hans-Adam II clearly has more individual power than most of the people in the list above

ryutin said...

how many people do the thai or honduran coupmongers have to kill before they get on the list?

Phil said...

They can kill as many as they like. If on the other hand they started nationalising things then things would be very different ...

Steve said...

Here is an alternative list

Kit said...

Islam Karimov