An island paradise for former dictators

It’s nice to get a link from a high-traffic blog like Andrew Sullivan’s. Unfortunately, that link goes to what I think is one of my more hare-brained ideas — a weird scheme to conscript jury duty into service as an employment office.

This is, I think, a Bad Idea — see the comment thread there for a host of reasons why. As I said in the post itself, though, I was mainly hoping it might be the kind of half-baked Bad Idea that might prompt a bit of creative thinking that could, in turn, foster some not-so-bad ideas.

In that vein, let’s revisit another of my Bad Ideas — this is my grand scheme for a smoother way to end dictatorships and transition to democracy in formerly autocratic nations.

Part of the problem with being a dictator is that it’s hard to stop. It’s a classic tiger-by-the-tail scenario. If a dictator wants to ease up on the oppression and repression enforced by his secret police, the odds are that things will quickly get out of hand and come to an ugly, violent end.

You may have seen the horrific video of Moammar Gadhafi’s brutal death. Dictators realize that this is a likely scenario for them if they don’t die in office. This is part of why so many of them, when confronted with mass-movements calling for reform, double down with ever-more violent suppression and oppression.

We’re seeing this dynamic at work right now in Syria, where Assad is just straight-up murdering his own people in an effort to keep his dictatorship intact. There has been some talk of providing him with another option — some kind of “safe passage” into exile.

My grand scheme would enhance the attractiveness of this option for all such dictators.

The precise location of the island would, for security reasons, need to be kept secret, but it would be someplace beautiful — the kind of island rightly described as a “paradise.” Somewhere in the South Pacific, maybe, or the Indian Ocean or Caribbean. Sparkling blue water, perfect weather, lush surroundings.

And this island paradise would have all the amenities to which a kleptocratic dictator would have grown accustomed — all provided by an international all-star team. A household staff overseen by a top-notch British butler. A four-star kitchen run by a distinguished French chef. Golf courses designed by the legends of the game. Concierge medicine from the best doctors money can buy. Other, less licit, indulgences are also readily available to cater to any given predilection.

The island, in other words, would promise a life of decadent luxury and uninterrupted indulgence.

And that island paradise, that earthly heaven, would await any dictator willing to step aside. Just say the word and Bashar al-Assad and his family would be whisked away from the cares of the world and resettled in a spectacular mansion on the island. His new home would be far enough from the other island estates that he wouldn’t need to worry about Robert Mugabe or Omar al-Bashir spying over his manicured hedges. But it would still be close enough that he could get together with Islam Karimov and Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov for drinks or tennis whenever he liked.

The nations formerly ground under those former-dictators’ boots, meanwhile, would now be free to determine their futures without fear of repression.

This proposal has a few downsides. It’s morally repugnant, for one thing. The bottom line would be that some of the worst criminals on the planet would be escaping justice, effectively being rewarded for their decades of cruelty and oppression.

I try to address this objection in Phase B of the plan (see below), but also bear in mind that, while hard to swallow, such largesse to monsters might ultimately entail less injustice and less harm than either leaving them in power or attempting to dislodge them by force. The idea of Bashar al-Assad living out the rest of his days in lavish luxury is an ugly thought, but it might not be too high a price if it means ending the current injustice and violence in his country.

There’s also the problem of moral hazard. This island paradise for former dictators could, in effect, become an incentive to others to become horrifically brutal dictators in the hopes of one day being offered such a retirement package in exchange for stepping down.

To mitigate against that, the existence of the island and the splendor of its many amenities would need to be kept a secret.

I imagine it working like this. The special liaison from UNCETSD would arrive at the palace of a given dictator. The special liaison would eventually arrive at every such palace. That is his job as special liaison for the United Nations Commission for Expediting the Transition to Self-Determination. His job is to visit every dictator and invite them to retire — invite them to see that doing so, voluntarily, is in their own best interests.

The special liaison is a nondescript man who travels with no entourage, no trappings of authority. He carries only his UNCETSD credentials, a draft contract, and a DVD. The DVD offers a guided tour of the island, highlighting all the splendors it has to offer to any dictator who agrees to leave power. It looks a bit like the promotional DVD for any other all-included retirement community, except this community is far more fabulously luxurious and this video is narrated by Tony Blair. It also includes enthusiastic testimonials from former dictators now enjoying life on the island — once feared and notorious men who later, one day, mysteriously vanished and were never heard from again.

The special liaison meets with the dictator in person and they watch the DVD. “You have a month to consider this offer,” he says. He is a firm man with a no-nonsense manner of speaking, but he can also be quite charming, even when dealing with some of the most reprehensible men on earth. Surprisingly, he’s also particularly good with young children — thrilling them with descriptions of the island’s Disney-imagineered amusement park rides and water slides. Sometimes, he has found, the surest way to a heartless dictator’s heart is through his grandchildren.

Would this work? I don’t know.

I’d like to dream that it could, because I’d love to see some more effective method of encouraging repressive strongmen to just walk away, allowing their people a better chance at the freedom and dignity that every person deserves.

And I’d like to see it work because Phase B might prove both educational and entertaining.

This kicks in after several years have passed and the former dictators have grown accustomed to life in their island paradise.

The evacuation occurs swiftly and silently, in the dead of night. The former dictators awake to find all the servants gone. The butlers and household servants, chefs, masseuses, groundskeepers and golf pros, farriers and falconers, all simply gone. So too are the grandchildren and any other members of their families under the age of 18.

It may take them a day or two to fully realize what this means. The supply ships and supply planes are not coming back. They are now, in effect, shipwrecked and marooned. And they will have to struggle to survive.

As they desperately take stock of their situation, perhaps they will notice one or two of the cameras, artfully hidden everywhere they turn. But even if they find a handful of these hidden cameras, they won’t find enough of them to interfere with the live webfeeds and edited broadcast versions of the reality show: Lords of the Flies: Chaos in Paradise. That’s Phase B.

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  • Paul Bickart

    Cullen Murphy suggested this in the Atlantic Magazine in 1992:

     http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/92apr/murphy.htm

  • gocart mozart

    Pink Floyd was way ahead of you
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqonCo0A68o

  • gocart mozart

    “The Fletcher Memorial Home”
    take all your overgrown infants away somewhereand build them a home a little place of their ownthe fletcher memorialhome for incurable tyrants and kings and they can appear to themselves every dayon closed circuit t.v.to make sure they’re still realit’s the only connection they feel”ladies and gentlemen, please welcome reagan and haigmr. begin and friend mrs. thatcher and paisleymr. brezhnev and partythe ghost of mccarthythe memories of nixonand now adding colour a group of anonymous latinamerican meat packing glitterati” did they expect us to treat them with any respectthey can polish their medals and sharpen theirsmiles, and amuse themselves playing games for a whileboom boom, bang bang, lie down you’re dead safe in the permanent gaze of a cold glass eyewith their favourite toysthey’ll be good girls and boysin the fletcher memorial home for colonialwasters of life and limb is everyone in?are you having a nice time?now the final solution can be applied

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    As they desperately take stock of their situation, perhaps they will
    notice one or two of the cameras, artfully hidden everywhere they turn.
    But even if they find a handful of these hidden cameras, they won’t find
    enough of them to interfere with the live webfeeds and edited broadcast
    versions of the reality show: Lords of the Flies: Chaos in Paradise. That’s Phase B.

    But, um, wouldn’t this bit negate the bit about the secret dictator paradise?  Or are you just assuming that when it all comes to light and we’re watching former dictators struggle to survive, everyone will realize that Mugabe has been away, thereby negating the moral hazard?

    Seems to me that eventually, though, an al-Assad or a Gaddafi will put two and two together, then realize that when the UN envoy shows up he’s offering five years of freedom and an unexpected Reality TV contract.  He’ll then throw the envoy out.

    And, of course, isn’t it a moral hazard for us to be entertained by this sort of thing?  I mean, it’s not exactly gladiatorial combat in the Colosseum, but it’s still being entertained by the suffering of others.  They may well deserve said suffering, but, y’know, ugh.

    Ooooh, even better idea: make sure that they CAN see the video cameras.  But don’t actually do anything with the cameras.  So they’ll die thinking they’re being filmed for TV…

  • MaryKaye

    Part A, alas, falls apart on “security through obscurity”–you won’t be able to keep the secret once you’ve made the offer a time or two.  Secrets are hard, and this one, by its nature, is known by too many people.

    But Part B would be brutally entertaining.  I don’t think I could stand to watch it, but I would certainly feel some wicked pleasure in knowing it had happened.

    Fred, is this heading for a metaphor about Heaven and Hell?  It sort of feels that way.

  • quinfirefrorefiddle

    So part B would also be morally reprehensible….  Is what you’re saying.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    I was sort of expecting the full Running Man treatment, where the entire concept was a closely guarded lie. 

  • walden

    Able was I ere I saw Elba

  • Tonio

    I would love to sic the Black Mercy plant on these dictators.

  • VMink

    That’s a rather curiously mean post of Fred’s. o_O   Then again, there’s something reflective about this, something almost Swiftian — not that this is serious (Fred did say this was one of his ‘bad ideas.’)  I’ll have to think on this.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

     The problem is, Phase B is exactly what the dictators would be expecting.

    Indeed, one might have a kind of revenge by setting up Phase A, stepping back and doing nothing, and letting the dictators create a bloodbath on that lovely island all by themselves out of mistrust. (Unfortunately, this bloodbath would take a number of innocent staff and families with them.)

    Or merely letting them wait, in self-created torment, sure that one day Phase B would come… but not knowing what form it would take or when.

  • Eamon Knight

    Heh. Phase B is pretty much the same fantasy I’ve entertained occasionally over the past 30 years. Never thought of Phase A, though. I’m not sure whether that means Fred is a better or worse human being than I am ;-).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    It might be a tough sell for the victims though.

    “Hey, so instead of putting on trial or just shooting him, we’re going to whisk him away to a private island with amenities more lavish than you or I will ever experience. All his needs and desires will be attended to; it’ll be heaven on Earth! But don’t worry; after five years we’re going to turn it into a reality show for all the world to watch!”

    “Well, maybe not all the world. You guys will still be digging your way out of the hole the fucker left you in, what with all the looting, fraud, and general economic vandalism. The ones of you who actually have TV and cable or satellite by some miracle will be way too busy working, and providing care to your relatives who were maimed in his hellish torture pits.”

  • Apocalypse Review

    A less repugnant version of this, I recall reading, is to just give Presidents of African nations a guaranteed pile of cash if they promise to leave office without looting the national treasury during their time there. It may reward incompetence, but at least it may also reward eventual honesty in government since role-modelling behavior tends to go from the top down.

  • Monala

    A similar program is already in place:  the African Presidents-in-Residence Program at Boston University.  Charles Stith, Clinton’s Ambassador to Tanzania, created the program upon his return to the U.S. In exchange for stepping down from their dictatorships, African Presidents are given a teaching post  at Boston University.

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/04/12/reform_school

  • WingedBeast

    Phase A

    2 problems.

    Problem # 1, already stated previously, the secrecy.  How are you going to keep this thing secret for any length of time?  In order for any crazed dictator to take any such offer seriously, he needs to verify it with people who know, people he trusts who can review documents for authenticity, check the DVD for trickery, etc.

    These are, by nature and necessity, paranoid people.  You don’t go into this kind of powergame without being a little paranoid about what people will do to take your power from you.  Then, as people start resisting or you start realizing that it’s only reasonable that they would, you get more and more paranoid.  That nice guy from the UN just being that charming…. not gonna get it done.

    Problem 2.  Hubris.

    We like to think that killing people, oppressing them, etc, is a means to an end for most dictators.  Maybe for Kim Jong Une (sp?) who was born into this, but for most that is unlikely.  We’re talking about psychopaths

    What I know of the disorder comes mainly from The Psychopath Test, but one of the luxuries they have in a current position is that of being imporant.  The feeling of power and importance they have by controlling lives, manipulating heads of state, etc.  You can provide them with all their illicit desires, but they also have to accept mattering less, not being able to manipulate heads of state or being important enough to draw invitations to the super-retirement island.

    I suppose that might be something manageable in the sales pitch and matched with timing that indicates that dictators have a limited office span and an uncomfortably indefinate lifespan afterwords.

    Phase B… would artificially select for psychopaths among the survivors.  They would be ready, psychologically, wanting to matter enough for this to be done to them.  You’d effectively be killing off the most redemable among them for the heady crime of being over the age of 18.

    Nice idea, Phase B just isn’t a go from the first place.  Phase A… difficulties.

  • danalwyn

    Part A seems to be the de facto method for dealing with “your” dictators after they cease to become useful, or convenient.  Usually they end up in some third party country where they live happily ever after, etc., etc., in return for a promise not to try and kick off a revolution the moment they leave national soil.  It rarely seems to please anyone.

    Of course the biggest practical problem is that dictators don’t exist in a vacuum, they stay dictators by creating a powerful minority faction whose power is dependent on their being someone at the top looking out for them.  This is why too many times the ouster of a dictator causes a country to lapse into a period of what is politely called “unrest” and practically called “civil war”. Getting rid of them is usually a lot harder than getting rid of the guy on top.

  • Victor

    (((“Well, maybe not all the world. You guys will still be digging your way out of the hole the fucker left you in, ……..)))

    Hey,  if this is the worst names a person can be called on this blog, “I” might be spending more time here and who knows me, myself and i might even try and convince sinner vic and his imaginary so called god cells of his gods to join these  “Dictators” cause between you and me Fred, did not “Jesus” say in so many words that nothing will ever truly not be see in the light! Well ya know what “I” mean? :)

    Peace

  • Kubricks_Rube

    And that island paradise, that earthly heaven, would await any dictator willing to step aside. Just say the word and Bashar al-Assad and his family would be whisked away from the cares of the world and resettled in a spectacular mansion on the island.

    Am I the only one reading this as a satirical restatement of the previous post on the misuse of the Sinner’s Prayer?

  • christopher_young

    Where have you gone, Larry Ellison?
    A nation turns its lonely eyes to you…

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    Not like he’s leaving the country. His private island is part of my state!

  • El_bryanto

    They tried that on TV and it didn’t work – i.e. the Prisoner.  Granted those were spies.  Possibly Dictators have a bit less on the ball?   

  • aunursa

    From the perspective of Ayn Rand was evil, this proposal sounds like the plot for one of her novels.

  • http://www.blogger.com/home?pli=1 Coleslaw

    It’s nice to get a link from a high-traffic blog like Andrew Sullivan’s. Unfortunately, that link goes to what I think is one of my more hare-brained ideas

    A link from a high-traffic blog to a post that you think  doesn’t show you in your best light? Gosh, Fred, I think I know exactly how that feels. ;)

    Alas, I think previous posters are right about the drawbacks of the idea, especially that the secret island won’t remain a secret for long. But it might make an interesting movie script.

  • guest

     Quite a few former dictators have ended up in Saudi Arabia. But they have to agree to what amounts to house arrest.

  • Ursula L

    Fred, the Hunger Games?  Really?  

    Because that’s pretty much what you’ve got there.  Take some people, throw them into impossible luxury for a while, then dump them in an arena to fight it out.  

    Some of those people being children, whom you’ve deliberately manipulated and used as the tools to get their dictator grandparent to agree to the plan, coming of age as part of the program, and then left to fight it out for our amusement.  

  • http://lightningbug.blogspot.com lightning

    Unworkable, for reasons that others have noted.  However, there’s a valid principal in there.  As Brigham Young put it when asked why he paid off the local Indians instead of simply wiping them out, “flour is cheaper than gunpowder”.

    When in doubt, buy ’em out.

    Your luxury island would cost a fraction of the money looted by the dictators.  Perhaps giving up the ill-gotten gains would be a condition of entry — the amounts looted by dictators are staggering — in the billions.

    Another place this might work is Afghanistan.  Problem is that the most profitable crop the local farmers can grow is opium.  Attempts to get them to raise, say, wheat haven’t worked — not enough money.  So we simply buy the raw opium from them at the going price and destroy it.  As long as the farmers and their local bosses get paid, no problem.  They don’t care if the European and American drug kingpins go out of business …

  • LouisDoench

    Wait a minute… was Sullivan taking you seriously Fred? That’s priceless… absolutely priceless. I knew Andrew was a tool, but I thought he had a sense of humor (and the ability to read to the end of something).

  • Victor

    (((Wait a minute… was Sullivan taking you seriously Fred? That’s priceless… absolutely priceless. I knew Andrew was a tool, but I thought he had a sense of humor (and the ability to read to the end of something). )))

    Hey go figure! “I’M” not the only “ONE” around here with friends Fred!  :)

    Peace

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Phase B… would artificially select for psychopaths among the survivors.  They would be ready, psychologically, wanting to matter enough for this to be done to them.  You’d effectively be killing off the most redemable among them for the heady crime of being over the age of 18.

    Phase C is, of course, ‘Nuke the survivors’.

    Not to say that it’s actually a good plan.  It’s described as a bad plan to change the world for a reason.

    They don’t care if the European and American drug kingpins go out of business … 

    The various terrorist groups that make quite a bit of money selling to them do, however – and unless you’re seriously suggesting that the USG buy from them

  • http://lightningbug.blogspot.com lightning
    They don’t care if the European and American drug kingpins go out of business …

    The
    various terrorist groups that make quite a bit of money selling to them
    do, however – and unless you’re seriously suggesting that the USG buy
    from them…

    Nope.  We just cut them out of the supply chain.  Or, let them bid the price up.

  • oliviacw

    I am reminded of the song, “A New Argentina” from the musical Evita.  The relevant portions:

    [Peron:]There again we could be foolish not to quit while we’re aheadFor distance lends enchantment, and that is whyAll exiles are distinguished, more important, they’re not deadI could find job satisfaction in Paraguay….[Peron:]There again we could be foolish not to quit while we’re aheadI can see us many miles away, inactiveSipping cocktails on a terrace, taking breakfast in bedSleeping easy, doing nothing, it’s attractive[Eva:]Don’t think I don’t think like youI often get those nightmares too…

    The mere power of dictatorship might be too seductive to some (like Evita) to want to give up their situation, even if the living would be much easier (as Peron is drawn to).

  • arcseconds

    Isn’t this what Special Circumstances does with brutal dictators in Iain M. Banks’s books? 

    Except it isn’t an incentive, and they don’t get a choice about it. 

    Anyway,  I think being a tyrant is all about power, not luxury.

    This explains the behaviour of a lot of people other than despots of nation-states.  You probably have worked under some of these people.   People who, for example, would never consider giving workers more control over their own work even though this generally results in greater productivity, loyalty and goodwill (and a nicer work environment) because they don’t care about those things (not even profit) – they care about having people entirely under their thumb.

  • Matri

    Well, we could always send in Rico Rodriguez to keep them in line. :D

  • http://redwoodr.tumblr.com Redwood Rhiadra

    The special liaison is a nondescript man who travels with no entourage,
    no trappings of authority. He carries only his UNCETSD credentials, a
    draft contract, and a DVD. […] he can also be quite charming, even when dealing with some of the most reprehensible men on earth.

    So, Mr. Morden, then?

  • LL

    I’m actually fine with just killing dictators. It just doesn’t happen often enough. Would probably help if the U.S. would stop supporting them. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    The problem I have is that killing dictators seems to be the optimal solution, but it only works if you go the full mile…if you kill little Anastacia too.  Otherwise there are people left with an interest in retaking their throne, or willing puppets for a later coup to rally around.

    I’m not sure I’d want to support a revolution that could do that easily, but I think any that doesn’t is doomed to fail. 

  • Robyrt

    I like the idea of “catching more flies with honey than vinegar” but – as previously noted – aside from the moral issues, dictators are not the kind of evildoers who will go for this plan in the first place. People like Mugabe are deeply invested in the belief that they are holding their country together by personal force of will and iron discipline, that they are striking back against Factions within and Enemies without, that they have the power to do whatever they want to whomever they want, by trickery or main force. You might be able to sell them on the Matrix, but not a peaceful retirement.

  • http://jesustheram.blogspot.com/ Mr. Heartland

    Yes exactly.  Robert Mugabe is now in his late eighties.  It is by rights self-evident that one way or the other he will lose power in the near future; and that this is no more subject to his power of Will than any of our own final defeats.  The fact that he goes through so much trouble to stay in power in spite of the biologically obvious exemplifies how dictators tend to honestly believe  themselves to be godlike compared to other people. Offering them the choice of ‘Take this sweetheart deal before the vengeful masses get you” may work in some cases, but probably not all that many.  ‘Take the money or else’ is unlikely to work because they sincerely “know” that they cannot possibly ever suffer the Or Else.  

    In the same way that they feel justified in murdering a thousand other humans; because they are assured of their own selves being greater and more important than any thousand normal people combined, so they are also convinced that they are stronger and more powerful than any million common people combined.  They will therefore go to battle against any massed resistance with perfect confidence in victory, even when the odds are hopelessly against them, even to the ruin of not just themselves but to their loved ones and “heirs”. 

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    I’m at work and tired and mentally unfocused, so this is not my best effort, but here goes:

    Fred (like most of us) is caught between pragmatism and ideals. If you want to be pragmatic, if you want a dictator to give up power, you need to at least assure them that their former power won’t be used against them or their families or loved ones.  You want them to realize that stepping away from their power does not necessarily mean being cast down or having to suffer. It means offering some prosperity or at least security once the powers of government are removed.

    But one of those assurances will likely be along the lines of “if I leave power, you won’t arrest me and put me on trial and hang me!” Which is where we run into idealism. We want justice. If the old regime favored one group over another, we want that group brought even! If the old guard violated the laws, we want them to be tried and punished! Those desires, that urge to see justice done, is not even remotely enticing when you are potentially on the other side of it.   

    The solution, of course, is deception, dishonestly, and acting in bad faith. Does anyone, anywhere, believe that the trial of Saddam Hussein would have ended in anything other than a death sentence? If every dictator knows that the trial they face by a new government is sure to end in death… well, that’s not really a trial anymore, is it? 

    Whether you’re extraditing a foreign national, or simply pulling someone out of their remote villa at gunpoint, if the end result is a trial with only one outcome, it’s really just a long, slow execution designed to save face. 

    Consider BinLaden. There were three possibilities
    1.) an execution
    2.) a show-trial that ends in death
    3.) a real trial, with the very real possibility that under the law, he walks free. 

    #1 offends our sensibilities because we do not believe ourselves to be assassins.
    #2 offends our sensibilities because we believe our laws and our courts to be equally valid for all.
    #3 offends our sense of justice for even the whisper of possibility that those who we personally have judged guilty might not be punished. More than that, #3 scares us, because it allows for the possibility that our sense of justice is wrong, our systems of justice are wrong, or both.

  • JonathanPelikan

    I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said, but I have to point out; when it comes to OBL, speaking for me, personally, I’m perfectly happy for ‘us’ to be assassins. I’m proud that the armed forces of the United States put a bullet into that man and removed him from our world. 

  • Tonio

    I’ve long felt that true justice for mass murderers would be something that causes them to feel remorse of galactic proportions. Imagine if OBL willingly went to each person who lost a loved one on 9/11 and begged for forgiveness. Speaking as an opponent of the death penalty, I felt neither joy nor sorrow at OBL’s death, just relief, and I question whether that was an appropriate or moral feeling for me to have. 
    One reason I oppose the death penalty is because it made no difference for Timothy McVeigh. With his blank face and his dead eyes, he was the embodiment of unfeeling defiance. He was even more undefeated than the Norse hero who laughs as his enemies cut out his heart. He welcomed execution because he craved martyrdom. The only true justice I can imagine for McVeigh is some experience that would destroy him emotionally instead of physically.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    #3 offends our sense of justice for even the whisper of possibility that those who we personally have judged guilty might not be punished. More than that, #3 scares us, because it allows for the possibility that our sense of justice is wrong, our systems of justice are wrong, or both.

    Yup.
    It’s a useful way to be scared, sometimes.

  • Ursula L

    #3 offends our sense of justice for even the whisper of possibility that those who we personally have judged guilty might not be punished. More than that, #3scares us, because it allows for the possibility that our sense of justice is wrong, our systems of justice are wrong, or both. 

    # 3 offends our sense of justice?

    I would say, rather that any genuine sense of justice demands option three.  We know we are human, and make mistakes in judgment, mistakes that would do great harm if our individual gut reaction on guilt or innocence was the determining factor in inflicting punishment.  

    From the beginning, I wanted to see Bin Ladin on trial.  Genuine trial.  New York State Supreme Court, New York County.  And in the other jurisdictions where his crimes were committed.  With rights and a competent defense and the potential for legal punishment up to life in prison. 

    #1 and #2 scare me.  It’s too easy to say “but this person is really bad, and we really know it, so we don’t have to bother with the procedures and institutions that we as a human society have developed to  be sure we don’t make mistakes, and can correct any mistakes when they are discovered.”  This or that category of person doesn’t deserve to be treated as a human, with human rights.  

    Don’t confuse the desire for revenge with a sense of justice.  Justice requires evidence and fairness.  Justice requires moderation and self-control.  

    The desire for revenge is an instinct that needs to be controlled.  Calling such desire “justice” as if it were a virtue is immoral, because you’re deluding yourself into thinking you’re acting morally when you aren’t.  

  • Tonio

     Ursula codified something I had been thinking when I wrote my original post. Any genuine sense of justice demands option three because we don’t have the power to bring back all the lives that OBL ordered destroyed. Or to make him feel remorse. Or to prevent future generations around the world from thinking of him as anything but a monster.

  • Chunky Style

    Abominable fancy!

    (I suppose that’s also the the evil doppelganger of Fancy Fancy, one of Top Cat’s cronies.)

  • LMM22

    The evacuation occurs swiftly and silently, in the dead of night. The former dictators awake to find all the servants gone. The butlers and household servants, chefs, masseuses, groundskeepers and golf pros, farriers and falconers, all simply gone. So too are the grandchildren and any other members of their families under the age of 18.

    Maybe I’m a bit too tipsy to take you *completely* seriously (I just attempted to demonstrate comfort-nursing to my distracted kitten), but this is a total tour de force of the subjects you tend to focus on. Someone else pointed out the Sinner’s Prayer reference.

    This part, though, is a brilliant take on the Rapture … with the exception that we — the ‘Elect’ of sorts — sit in Heaven enjoying the suffering of the damned.

    Honestly, I could see a Witness Protection Program for dictators. It might very well reduce a lot of pain and suffering … provided something reasonable could be trusted to form in its void.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    This reminds me a bit of an idea I had for how to fix the whole mess we’re in economically. We just start lying to the “Job Creators”. We go on about our business, repairing the infrastructure, doing the jobs that need doing, buying goods and services, but we make up our own fake money completely divorced from what the stock market does. When the boss says to downsize a bunch of workers in order to improve their balance sheet, the next guy down says “Sure thing boss!” and then does no such thing, but prepares a balance sheet saying that profits are up. And the plutocrat class can enjoy playing the ponies on wall street and thinking they are very important and making the big decisions that give value to the lives of the proletariat, without actually hurting anyone.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I’ve heard that in some cases an ad hoc response like this popped up to repeated instances of downsizing within the same company: people started just adding fake names to the payroll and ‘pink slipping’ them so some HR airhead flack could Powerpoint up the number on a computer the week after to please the CEO.

  • Monala

    There is a lot of speculation here about whether dictators would take the deal or not. And yet, we don’t have to speculate. There IS a program in place that offers dictators a deal that lets them save face, maintain a bit of status, and get out of the country safely–at the link in my previous post. 

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Dictators aren’t dictators because they want luxury. Dictators are dictators because they want power. 

  • Münchner Kindl

    Leaving aside the problems already mentioned – lack of secrecy; dictators want power, not money and many have deluded themselves that they are the best/ only father for their nation, so if they left, everything would collapse into chaos* – the main problem is trust. The US  – despite Ellenjay telling us that the US president will oversee disarmament in Left Behind because he’s so trustworthy – has in real life a very bad record of dealing with people they no longer need or whom public opinion has turned against.

    Making this offer come from the UN won’t help a bit, because everybody (outside Ellenjay and their followers) know that the UN is a toothless paper tiger which doesn’t accomplish anything unless the US (and Russia and China) all agree.

    So even if you left off Plan B, if you thought that paying Island paradiese for ever would be worth saving the lifes of the civilians dying in Syria right now – even then nobody would believe you that once the plane was leaving, it wouldn’t “disappear” over the ocean instead. (This is of course what real-life dictators have done to the opposition: taken them on plane rides and thrown out of the hatch).

    * sadly, real life often bears them out – once the oppressor is gone, the one fact that united all protesters is also gone, and vicious infighting among different opposition groups starts as to how the run the country now, and who should

  • Münchner Kindl

    Sorry for the botched quote in my post.

  • Parisienne

    One minor problem I see: Tony Blair on the voiceover. While this would certainly appeal to his vanity, it’s never going to work. You need someone capable of sounding sincere.

    (No, no other voice in humanity is quite so capable of making me want to throw things at my radio)

  • Tonio

     I can think of a few other voices – Bill O’Reilly w0uld sound insufferably smug even if he were reading from the phone book.

  • Tom

    Hahaha!  Tony Blair would SO do the narration!

  • Jim from BC

    Even if Assad left or died tomorrow the violence in Syria would go on. The reason the government and army are so loyal in Syria is because they are mainly drawn from the Shia and other minority ethno-religious groups that have been favored or protected by the regime and would probably be massacred if the regime fell.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Isn’t this what Special Circumstances does with brutal dictators in Iain M. Banks’s books? 

    Except it isn’t an incentive, and they don’t get a choice about it.

    And then there’s what Grey Area does…

    Nope.  We just cut them out of the supply chain.  Or, let them bid the price up.

    The problem is they’re perfectly willing to use force and intimidation to *make* the growers supply them.  So you now you need to protect the growers, and you’re right back at square one.

  • http://lightningbug.blogspot.com lightning

    The problem is they’re perfectly willing to use force and intimidation to *make* the growers supply them.  So you now you need to protect the growers, and you’re right back at square one.

    Yeah, they’re gonna wave guns around and intimidate a bunch of Afghans.  Riiight ….

  • Dan Gerszewski

    I rather like a turn of phrase I found in an old WWII training film on working undercover, turning it about here of course.

    Of course being eminently  fair you could charge dictators billions to be free and safe, and charge the other side billions to have a free shot at their former tormentor.

    Dictatorships tend to collapse into troubled democracies, the kind that have kleptocrats… worth billions.

    Charge them to get safe, then wait a respectable period and charge their former captives billions more to get them alone in a room with a blowtorch, a taser, and a chance to do to them just exactly what their secret police did to them….

    I love it.

  • Guest

    Wouldn’t it be cheaper just to hire high-priced assassins to take these guys out? Not that assassination isn’t repugnant, but I don’t see it as any more repugnant than, as someone said, making them into Hunger Games contestants.

    I think the point another person made that dictators don’t exist in a vacuum is relevant. You can’t be a dictator unless people allow it, and those are the people that will still be around when the dictator is off drinking mai-tais.

  • http://lightningbug.blogspot.com lightning

    There seems to be a tacit international agreement to the effect of “you don’t shoot our guys and we won’t shoot your guys”.  If everybody started shooting everybody else’s leaders, things would very quickly turn into chaos.  I believe this was the rationale for the nineteenth century anarchists — that’s just the situation that they wanted.

    Also, assassinating a Mad Dictator simply isn’t that easy.  One of the chef talents of dictators (Khadaffi and Saddam Hussein in particular) is unpredictability. You have to get your assassin into position before the dictator shows up — and he probably doesn’t know himself where he’ll be in half an hour.

    Shooting the dictator’s critical support people has also been tried (cf. 
    Gerald Bull).  That’s another method for turning a country into chaos.

  • BaseDeltaZero

    Yeah, they’re gonna wave guns around and intimidate a bunch of Afghans.  Riiight ….

    Yes.  Much like… you know, they currently do.  There are quite a few guns in Afghanistan, but they’re concentrated in the hands of the Mujahadeen.  That’s a fair portion of the problem – US/Coalition forces can’t secure the countryside against the Taliban – at least not completely.  Sure, the Taliban probably can’t concentrate a force large enough to actually take over a village by force, at least not without getting spotted and bombed to pieces, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a presence – they’re guerillas, after all, they don’t need to occupy a country outright to be threatening.  Granted, there will probably be a lot more public support for ‘greater profits’ compared to say, educating girls and all the other things we’re trying to do now, so that might bring up a greater level of resistance…
    But Afghanistan is not actually the armed camp you might expect.  Like many third world countries, there aren’t as many guns as we tend to think… (England has more) they’re just concentrated in the hands of the militants. 

    I suppose the plan could be made to work if the profit margin is great enough.

    Wouldn’t it be cheaper just to hire high-priced assassins to take these guys out? Not that assassination isn’t repugnant, but I don’t see it as any more repugnant than, as someone said, making them into Hunger Games contestants.

    I think the point another person made that dictators don’t exist in a vacuum is relevant. You can’t be a dictator unless people allow it, and those are the people that will still be around when the dictator is off drinking mai-tais.

    Assassination is… suboptimal, but it’s not like you can feasibly arrest them, and it’s a heck of a lot better than starting a war.  Superficially, anyways.  The problem with assassination is that it simply leaves a power vacuum, causing a brief clusterfuck as the mini-dictators fight to see who gets to be the next boss.

    And, of course, the big problem with any of these ideas is diplomatic.  You’d need an alliance of pretty much all the great powers (the US, the NATO nations, Russia, China… to a lesser extent places like Japan and Saudi Arabia) to pull it off without severe political consequences.  And of course, all of those nations are not always *interested* in dictators being deposed…
    You can’t do it with the UN because the aforementioned dictators vote in the UN!

  • Dragoness Eclectic

    Didn’t France used to do Part A occasionally? House on the French Riviera, and so on. “Baby Doc” Duvalier stayed in France for several decades after losing a revolution in Haiti. (For some reason, he decided to go back to Haiti last year, and is now in jail. Oops?)


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