Isn’t it interesting that the very same people calling for despots to step down from political office are through their actions showing the very same people why they absolutely cannot do so? Political leaders, organisational heads, talking heads in the media and so on all went together as a unified chorus. Saddam should give up, Gaddafi should step down, North Korea should end their nuclear ambitions, Al-Assad must resign. Sadly, for any of these actors to follow the preceding advice would be the epitome of folly. How the West treats dictators out of power has been the strongest possible incentive to cling to political power by hook or by crook.
We must address a legalistic versus a practical approach. Do these despots deserve to suffer horribly for their crimes? Absolutely. But is this justice worth prolonging the suffering of their people? Knowing that a horrible death is all that awaits them once out of office, why would any rational actor give it up if they can in any way avoid doing so? From our Western standpoint, the incentives are all upside down. Justice is important, but we live in the real world. It is imperfect and good things don’t always happen to good people and bad things don’t exclusively impact bad people. If our goal is to end the repression, suffering and suffocation of the potential in held down populations, we must use the means at our disposal to further such an agenda.
Let’s look at a thought experiment. The United Nations could have an island somewhere with a nice climate. On this island guarded by UN troops could be a sanctuary for political despots. In exchange for giving up their brutal and dictatorial regimes, they would be given a free pass to this island. Sacrificing justice for the freedom of enslaved peoples isn’t a poor bargain at all. If these leaders knew they had a realistic alternative to clinging desperately and brutally to power, it is beyond doubt that many would choose this alternative. You could even have a tiered structure of accommodations and amenities on sanctuary island. The less brutal, the less corrupt, the less repressive and so on, the better the life on the island could be. Thus, we would provide an incentive structure for good behavior. Without it, despots would be encouraged to rob their countries of their wealth and then enjoy a long peaceful retirement on this island.
So far, so good. This covers situations with a political leader acting as a despot together with his family/clan. We must address some other situations as well. North Korean nukes are causing headaches in capitals around the world. Can we really blame the Kims for seeking such armaments? North Korea would lose all their bargaining power if they followed the urgings of the world community. Only China and South Korea would care about the North without them. It is even very likely that the North would suffer an invasion and a dismantling of the current political regime should they give them up. They would in effect be the engineers of their own destruction.
Another good example is South Africa. Looking at statistics on murder, rape, crime and the economy it is easy to see that the situation for many South Africans has not improved in the least since the end of Apartheid. The white South Africans in particular have suffered greatly since giving over political power. The current political leadership is openly hostile at best to the well-being of the white population. Brutal farm murders and crimes against whites are tolerated. With hindsight, would the whites have willingly given up the Apartheid regime, knowing now where South Africa went after? I hardly think so. Other countries with an ethnic majority/minority in power can see this lesson demonstrated for all the world to see. Giving up hard won political power in order to include a minority/majority out of power isn’t an attractive option, knowing what happened to the whites of South Africa.
Finally, I want to talk about Putin. Why should he give up the Russian annexation of Crimea? The American political establishment/media complex have destroyed all the goodies Putin would have as motivation. They have imposed sanctions and greatly limited president Trump’s ability to improve relations with the Russian Federation. Putin thus has nothing to gain, and a lot to lose by acting in accordance with the West’s publicly stated goals. Had this not occurred, Trump would more than likely have been able to negotiate with Putin and come to mutually beneficial agreements between the two nations. Sadly, now this is looking more and more like a pipe dream with each passing day.