Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Opinion

Column: No better time to be a dictator

A new U.N. report on human rights violations in North Korea compares conditions in the country to the atrocities of Nazi Germany and details crimes against humanity within the country's vast labor camps including "systematic extermination, torture, rape, forced abortions and starvation." The panel recommends the prosecution of the country's top leaders by the international criminal court, though as long as ally China holds a veto on the Security Council, this is extremely unlikely.

The Guardian's Jonathan Freedland takes note of the likelihood of international inaction in response to the report, along with similarly chilling recent reports out of Syria, and argues that with China and Russia running interference for their autocratic allies and U.S. and European publics weary of military intervention, today is "a good time to be a dictator, a butcher or the torturing head of a brutal regime. The world will let you carry on killing — even when it knows … what is happening"

It's certainly a question worth considering during an Olympic games held in a country that is both committing grave human rights abuses at home and abetting far worse crimes abroad. This is something of a banner month for dictatorial impunity.

I'd argue, though, that North Korea may not be the most useful example here. The Hermit Kingdom is something of an outlier in the modern world as a country that is both brutal to its citizens and for the most part unconcerned with achieving any sort of international respectability. It's even willing to directly provoke its most important international backer. Most countries, even those with harsh dictatorships, probably don't look at North Korea's international isolation and see a model to follow.

Even Bashar Assad, while he is more than willing to drop barrels full of nails and rebar on his own people to maintain his grip on power, would — in the world of his choosing — probably much rather be munching canapés at Davos talking about his country's economic growth along with his region's more respectable autocrats.

A better example of a comfortable autocrat might be Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power since 1986. Uganda certainly isn't even remotely close to North Korea when it comes to human rights, but as Sam Sturgis of McClatchy writes this week, the United States is extremely unlikely to put any pressure on the country's government over harsh new laws targeting gays and lesbians and the unwelcome presence of its troops in South Sudan — not to mention its crackdowns on freedom of expression and flawed elections — thanks to the longstanding security partnership between the two countries:

"Beginning in the 1990s, the United States has built the capacity of Museveni's Uganda People's Defense Force so it could be counted on to help stabilize difficult situations throughout Central and East Africa," Sturgis writes.

Again, the conditions on the ground aren't in any way equivalent, but the Musevenis of the world — increasingly autocratic but strategically useful to superpowers — may be better examples of how to be a dictator in today's world than the Kim Jong Uns.

© 2014 Slate

Comments
Editorial: Tax cuts arenít worth harm to Tampa Bay

Editorial: Tax cuts arenít worth harm to Tampa Bay

As congressional negotiators hammer out the details on an enormous, unnecessary tax cut, the potential negative impact on Tampa Bay and Florida is becoming clearer. The harmful consequences stretch far beyond adding more than $1.4 trillion to the fed...
Published: 12/12/17

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Floridaís juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scottís administration was defensive and obtuse. So itís welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17