Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Death of a dictator

Over the recent past we have seen the removal of many vicious Arab dictators, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. Zine-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, Muammar Qaddafi of Libya and Abdullah Saleh of Yemen. Now the King of North Korea has died, Kim Jong-il, who inherited the position from his father. Permit me to express my pleasure at this event. Unfortunately, he had announced his successor, his third son Kim Jong-un, and so the monarchy will continue. It seems unlikely that his starved and servile people could do anything against the Stalinist regime that controls them, unlike the uprisings in the Arab countries and elsewhere.

It was announced that Kim Jong-il had died of a heart attack on a train ride, but like anything else from that closed, secretive country, it may not be true. This was announced three days after the event, so anything could have happened. He could have been shot by a dissident, one of millions who have suffered under his regime, or it could be that his successor or the military connived in removing him. He was unpredictable and corrupt. His regime has become like that of the pre-revolutionary Romanovs in Czarist Russia, living in opulence and adoration while the people starved. What is the point of it all if the cycle returns to the status quo ante? If only all such dictators could be removed, in N. Korea, China and Iran.

But, once again we are left with the problem of who will replace them. Democracy is not a single election, nor a general desire for freedom from dictatorial control. It must grow over time, with the development of organizational frameworks, with transparency and minority rights. While the number of countries which are nominally democracies are increasing, who would have believed that Iraq and Egypt would be democracies, their long-term adherence to what for them is a strange and cumbersome system, cannot be assured. In his watershed book, "The End of History" Francis Fukuyama pointed out that democracies do not go to war against each other, simply put the people in a democracy do not choose to fight wars. Given that principle it is of immense importance to Israel and the world that what is a very fragile flegling democratic movement in the Arab world be successful. Only time will tell. But, the people of N. Korea will have a longer wait for this outcome.


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