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Thursday, August 11, 2011

If the UN Wants to be Useful: Build Villas for Dictators

Egypt is prosecuting Mubarak in a hospital bed inside a cage. He faces the death penalty. An international court has indicted Kaddafi.  If his Libyan enemies get their hands on him first, he will be killed. Pinochet was hounded to the end of his life despite a grant of immunity after he turned over power following a democratic election.

What signals do these three cases send out? They tell dictators to fight on, to the bitter end if necessary.  In the meantime, NATO warplanes must be deployed, national treasure lost, and thousands of innocent civilians killed. In many cases, the dictator will prevail and continue in office. Nothing has been gained. The costs have been high.

If the UN wanted to make itself useful, it should have a protection program for dictators who negotiate to leave office. The compound should be heavily guarded, have all the latest luxuries, and the staff must be attentive and deferential. A deserted island might do the trick or a scenic down-on-its-luck country may want the business.

Those countries that want to extract revenge from fallen dictators would find this a tough proposition to accept. They are already rid of their dictator. Why should they help other countries get rid of theirs? But from a cost-benefit perspective, the UN-sponsored retirement community makes a lot of sense. This is one case where we need an “international community” to persuade reluctant members to do what is best.

I can imagine such a dictator-retirement community. Robert Mugabe takes a leisurely stroll, chatting with Mohammar Kaddafi and Bahsar Assad as Raul and Fidel Castro nap on  chaise lounges at the pool. Their mistresses would be welcome as well. What a sight!

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