The demographics of evil

I haven't read former ambassador Mark Palmer's new book, Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World's Last Dictators by 2025, which has the two-edged honor of being touted by U.S. Department of State.

Ousting dictators is, of course, a Good Thing. Palmer's reference to the "world's last dictators," however, seems a bit grandiosely ambitious.

On the other hand, Palmer's book — from a simple, demographic standpoint — may not be ambitious enough. Consider the respective ages of some of the world's most notorious dictators by the year 2025:

Kim Jong Il: 83

Ali Khamenei: 86

Moammar Gadhafi: 83

*Islam Karimov: 97

*Sapramurat Niyazov: 85

Fidel Castro: 99

Robert Mugabe: 101

Only the good die young, but it'd still be surprising if all of these guys were still around by 2025.

There are a few younger folks to consider, of course — in 2025, *Ilham Aliyev will be 64, and Bashar Assad will be only 59. I'm curious to read Palmer's plan for ousting them.

Curious, but worried. "Abolish evil" is a laudable goal that tends to morph into "kill all the bad people," which in turn often becomes "kill all of those people" and, well, that sort of thing worries me.

* U.S. allies in the GWOT

  • Night Owl

    And Bush will be only 79.

  • oh

    The good news is that Palmer’s book focuses almost exclusively on nonviolent options for the removal of these dictators/slaveholders. As a direct participant in successful civil rights movements in both the South and in Hungary Palmer believes that nonviolence is the best means for these transitions to occur. At the same time he does not downplay the reality that anyone who is going to be serious about human rights cannot simply ignore the plight of those without basic freedoms. Dictatorship, Palmer says, is a crime against humanity.
    Palmer says, “Armed rebellions usually fail, often even before they can begin. Even if they succeed, what comes after is typically no better, and frequently worse, than what they displace. Leaders of guerrilla movements are adept at the use of violence and take those skills with them when they take over presidential mansions: that is why violent revolutions typically produce repressive regimes. The people inherit only a new set
    of jailers. But there is another set of strategies for dissolving dictatorial power and establishing democracy, and it has a remarkable record of success. In their seminal book, “A Force More Powerful”, Peter Ackerman and Jack Du Vall document a dozen cases in which nonviolent popular movements prevailed against seemingly overwhelming odds and took power away from arbitrary rulers. My own experiences in the U.S. civil rights movement and in diplomatic service in communist countries confirm their view that political systems that deny people their rights can best be taken apart from the inside by the people themselves – of course with substantial assistance from outside.”
    I find Palmer’s book a breath of fresh air. Endorsed by a breadth of commentators like Nancy Pelosi, George Soros, and John McCain Palmer’s book recognizes the crucial need for the ongoing spread of democracy without becoming a warmonger. Neither is he anti-American in a manner that often ignores oppression unless such cruelty can be linked to American policy. Palmer is more committed to human rights than anti-Republicanism. He is ignorant of neither the abusive U.S. alliances of the Cold War or the real differences between the democratic freedoms of the West and the often brutal oppression of Communist, Muslim, and other dictators. He recognizes that, even amidst the Cold War, there has been a huge difference between the consequences of successful U.S. occupation (Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea) and communism.
    Two invaluable tools for those concerned about global human rights are included in the book (neither of which Palmer created). This list of 198 methods of nonviolent action:
    http://65.109.42.80/organizations/org/198_methods-1.pdf
    As well as Freedom House’s rank of nations by their degree of democratic freedoms:
    http://www.freedomhouse.org/research/freeworld/2004/combined2004.pdf
    To get a sense of Palmer’s perspective read his testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding North Korea:
    foreign.senate.gov/testimony/2003/ PalmerTestimony031104.pdf
    Here is a Wall Street Journal review of the book:
    http://www.opinionjournal.com/forms/printThis.html?id=110004436

  • Donald Johnson

    I read a lot of folks on the far left and I sometimes disagree with them, but I don’t know of any who can’t distinguish between the freedoms we have in the US and the lack of freedom in Muslim or communist dictatorships. Undoubtedly there are a few crazies who can’t make such distinctions, but it’s just intellectually lazy to assume that folks who concentrate on the sins of the West must be stupid in that particular way. People who focus on the sins of the US might be mistaken to take that approach, but they generally do it because they think it’s their duty to go after the sins of their own country first. There are pitfalls in that approach, but given the fact that so many American war criminals are walking around free, I think it also has its strengths.
    That said (chances are no one is reading), Palmer himself sounds interesting.


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