A New Age Of Dictators Rule With Velvet Gloves
Although there is evidence of systematic acts of brutality against civilian populations perpetrated by dictators from Syria’s Bashir al-Assad to North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Sergei Guriev and Daniel Treisman assert that more often than not, they employ a soft power to execute their goals. And to confront them, we must understand how some differ from others.
“The ‘soft’ dictators concentrate power, stifling opposition and eliminating checks and balances, while using hardly any violence. These illiberal leaders — Alberto K. Fujimori of Peru, Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Viktor Orban of Hungary, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Mahathir Mohamad of Malaysia and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela — threaten to reshape the world order in their image, replacing principles of freedom and law — albeit imperfectly upheld by Western powers — with cynicism and corruption,” they write.
Rather than terror, these dictators use propaganda, censorship and other information-based ploys to boost their popularity and delude citizens into believing they are superior to available alternatives.
“And violence is not just costly — it’s unnecessary. Instead, the new authoritarians immobilize political rivals with endless court proceedings, interrogations and other legal formalities,” the pair add.
Avoiding Another Disaster In Iraq
Brookings Institution scholar Kenneth Pollack says the fall of Ramadi should be a wake-up call for Baghdad and Washington because of its potential psychological impact on both sides of the war.
The victory in Ramadi by ISIS forces will certainly be used as a recruitment tool by the terrorists because it is far more powerful than appeals to religious fanaticism, asserts Pollack.
“While we make much of the appeal of Da’ish’s religious zealotry, the evidence strongly indicates that many (perhaps most) of Da’ish recruits…are young men drawn to the power and glamour of Da’ish’s revolt against the traditional Middle Eastern power structure. Da’ish is kick ass. They have conquered a vast swath of Iraq and Syria and put a heavy hurt on the conventional militaries of the regimes. Far too many angry, frustrated, and sexually-repressed young Sunni Arab men sign up with Da’ish to become the dangerous rebels-with-a-cause of the Muslim world,” he writes.
“The more victories that Da’ish wins, especially against American air power, the more that they burnish that image of power and edgy glamour that is so important to their recruiting efforts. The fall of Ramadi (and Palmyra in the same week) can only help swing the psychological momentum back to Da’ish.”
A report that at least five British students were killed fighting for ISIS in Ramadi underscored the appeal ISIS holds among Westerners.
Global Cooperation: A Report Card
The Council on Foreign Relations has issued its report in which think tank leaders grade the international community on the world’s performance on global cooperation and prospects for 2015.