Preposterous Universe

Monday, February 14, 2005
The road ahead

Daniel Wallechinsky, writing for Parade magazine (that high-powered foreign policy journal), has consulted with Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders to construct a list of the World's Ten Worst Dictators. Since we are now told, somewhat belatedly, that our invasion of Iraq was actually a humanitarian venture designed to spread democracy throughout the world (and the bits about weapons of mass destruction and ties to al-Qaeda were just honest mistakes), this list will serve as a helpful finding-chart for our future foreign policy objectives. I figure we'll be invading each in turn, from the worst at the top down to the not-quite-so-evil at the bottom. By the time we get through them all, the ineluctable logic of the Bush Doctrine will no doubt convince all remaining dictators to abdicate in a hurry.
  1. Omar al-Bashir, Sudan.
  2. Kim Jong Il, North Korea.
  3. Than Shwe, Burma.
  4. Hu Jintao, China.
  5. Crown Prince Abdullah, Saudi Arabia.
  6. Muammar al-Qaddafi, Libya.
  7. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan.
  8. Saparmurat Niyazov, Turkmenistan.
  9. Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe.
  10. Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Equatorial Guinea.
We can quibble about the list, but the top three are consensus picks to be sure. al-Bashir and Shwe will likely fold like a cheap suit after the first hundred cruise missiles, so they shouldn't be any problem. Kim Jong Il is trickier, with those nuclear weapons and all. Fortunately he doesn't yet have the capability to launch them all the way to California, so South Korea and Japan will likely take the brunt of the carnage. (Maybe they can borrow our missile defense system?) China will be tougher yet, what with a substantial military and over a billion people. Might have to call up more of the Guard. But we know about their nefarious plans to put an Asian person on the Moon, and we have to act swiftly before the Chinese flag is flapping in the Lunar breeze overhead.

Saudi Arabia will be awkward, since they're our close allies and all, but frankly we could use the oil, and our armed forces are already in the area. (The fact that al-Qaeda actually has support there is just a bonus.) I'm surprised to see Qaddafi so high on the list; I thought he had lost the will to be a really brutal dictator, but apparently he's rebounded in the last year, punishing entire towns for "collective guilt." Pakistan -- again, awkward, and heavily armed. But perhaps we could take out bin Laden in the process, which would be a PR coup. Personally I think Niyazov should be ranked even higher; he has quite a fondness for erecting statues of himself, which will make for great visuals after Turkmenistan is liberated. Mugabe and Nguema have slipped in the rankings over the last year, but that's as much a reflection of the tough competition as it is their own faults. Fact is, both regimes condone the use of torture against their suspected enemies, and that's a no-no in this new era of enforced Enlightenment values. Freedom is on the march!

Ideas on culture, science, politics.
Sean Carroll

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