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Dictatorship for dummies: 7 lessons from Gadhafi

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TRIPOLI, Libya — There is a lot that dictators can learn from Moammar Gadhafi's failures as Tripoli falls to Libyan rebels. With Arab Spring and who knows what else on their plates, what's a dictator to do?

Micah Zenko, fellow for conflict prevention at the Council on Foreign Relations, has just what other dictators need: "The Dictator’s Survival Guide."

The "guide" appears at ForeignPolicy.com as a way "the world's remaining autocrats can learn from Qaddafi's mistakes."

On a blog at the Council on Foreign Relations website, blogs.cfr.org, Zenko explains the reasoning behind his "analytical and satirical" piece. "Although Muammar Qaddafi remains at large, the one common thread in the comments, op-eds and editorials published over the past two days is that the western intervention into Libya's civil war 'worked.'"

And if it worked, what can savvy dictators around the world do to prevent it from happening to them?

"For nervous dictators across the world watching events unfold in Libya, the primary lesson should therefore be to do everything possible to avoid an external military intervention," Zenko wrote in Foreign Policy. "While dictators can't eliminate the possibility of foreign military intervention, they can certainly minimize its likelihood. To do so, self-interested autocrats should immediately integrate these seven tactics into their dictator survival guide."

So here are a few of what we could call Zenko's "Seven Habits for Highly Effective Dictators," or perhaps, "Dictatorship for Dummies."

1. Don't announce your plans.

2. Blame "others."

3. Control the media.

4. Be a U.S. or Russian ally.

5. By all means, get the bomb.

We won't give all the "Tips for Tyrants" here (it is an election year after all), but the rest are on ForeignPolicy.com, which includes pithy explanations of each suggestion.

In a more serious vein, Zenko points out on his blog how critiques of the NATO-led campaign have evaporated in the wake of the celebrating in Tripoli. "Like the images of Northern Alliance fighters sweeping into Kabul after the fall of the Taliban in November 2001, the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Fidros Square in Baghdad in April 2003, or President George W. Bush's speech before a red-white-and-blue 'Mission Accomplished' banner in May 2003, such moments of 'victory' are captivating and memorable," Zenko wrote. "As a result, the complex political and military mistakes made before such short-lived celebrations are often forgotten."

Smart dictators, however, take note.

EMAIL: mdegroote@desnews.com

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