26 jan What is a fragile state? Or: why we need dictators
A fragile state is a country that has no reliable structures (law or at least human rights protection, official political parties, controlling organisms, decent accountancy) and therefore could collapse at any moment. Fragile and arbitrary are close allies as we can see in Somalia or Afghanistan. There are about forty such states, where the so called leaders seem to live from day to day by rule of fear. The lack of structure facilitates the work of reckless rulers who are only interested in their own prosperity and future. Nationalism or patriotism, social responsibilty, public interest, fairness and transparency mean nothing. The leaders of fragile states change more often than not overnight; those who have been abused will become the new henchmen, a never ending story, unless…What? Does it take international pressure, economic boycot or straight war to change fragile states into stable ones? Or can a strong man, a dictator, do the job to start with? A leader who inspires fear but also obediency; who dictates the rules but creates order; who is prepared to kill his own people to make sure the country will prosper in some kind of continuity; who, finally, is prepared to be called a ruthless ruler but at least guarantees that one can cross the streets without being raped or shot. If you see the portrait of a certain Mugabe appear on your mental screen, well, yes, I would understand.
Oops, this is dangerous stuff…Am I saying that Saddam Hussein is better than the chosen politicians that we see now ‘ruling’ Iraq? Am I suggesting that Somalia needs an emperor to solve its problems (remember Haile Selassie in neighboring Ethiopia, small, elegant, ruthless…??)? Am I only hinting at the adnatages of having the Taliban rule Afghanistan rather than civil war dictating daily life? Uncomfortable it it, but the answer may be yes.
Why? Because I believe that it is shortsighted to eliminate an option only because it is not done to applaud it. Fragile countries will have to pass through a kind of harsh reeducation before they will start reacting in a way we call normal. Refocussing demands leadership with little mercy. To try to directly move from chaos to a democratically chosen government with its parliament and controlling agencies is committing instant suicide. To accept dictatorship -albeit in an enlightened version- is wisdom, despite the bitter taste it leaves in our parts of the world. Dictatorship as stepping stone to a liberal future (like in China) definitely has its advantages. Judging the intrensic importance of dictatorships is as difficult as defining what is and what isn’t a fragile nation. Or should we say that there are far more than forty such countries, maybe double that amount, if you would call ‘fragile’ countries where the citizens feel fragile under the pressure of their ruler. Fragile as in lack of respect for others, as in continuous fear, as in speechless.
Words, we have to be so careful using them.