28 March 2011

The Tyrant's Little Handbook

Ways to Stay in Power

This handbook isn't one that will tell you how to get power. The paths to power are many and varied and depend totally on circumstances and nation. It doesn't matter all that much if you got in by the old 'whiff of grapeshot' route or the tried and true 'coup against the regime from the inside' or the revolution from the outside or just the plain and simple 'steal an election or five'. How you get to power is not as important as what you do after achieving that goal, because getting to power is the easy part. The hard part is surviving to be something other than a footnote in history.

A word on that point: there is one man who has won a revolution, refused power, led a normal life, then had to come back to get things back together, was elected to the seat of power, and then stepped down from that. He stands not only next to Cincinnatus in history, but above him because he did try to emulate Cincinnatus at all turns and out performed him. If you really are that popular, then you don't need this handbook and you will soon stand next to George Washington. That sort of route will get you in the history books.

It is doubtful that you are that popular and led a revolutionary war competently for 7 years...

If you can't take that route for various reasons, then you do have to examine just what it is you are aiming for with this power of a nation in your hands. And so you will need some important rules of thumb to go by. No one can predict exactly how you got to where you are, so the rules are general in nature with a few provisos, but have a theme to them.

The First Two Rules

Self-aggrandizement is always popular amongst dictators and tyrants of all cultures and pretty much petty and pointless. If your ego is that big you are likely to miss something important like, say, ensuring that your people have adequate clothing for the winter. Or food. When it is all about 'you' then you tend to think the nation revolves around you. In fact, it doesn't. You just happened to hit the jackpot of getting to the top spot, and are nothing all that special unless you make yourself special.

A cult of personality is always great for PR and makes you feel that you really are beloved by your people, no matter what your thugs and secret police do. If you believe your PR then you will soon be despised and may find your lifespan shortened or find that your Nation falls into extreme poverty while your thugs beat everyone up. Basically you become a footnote in history, just another narcissistic tyrant who was out for self-satisfaction. You might even believe you are a god, of some sort, and challenge another god to a wrestling match or some other form of confrontation. It is to be remembered that Caligula found himself killed by his own bodyguards when they realized that Rome needed better than him.

From this there are two important rules that you can learn:

1) Never believe your own PR as you need a good dose of humility to rule and govern.

2) Your bodyguards can and will kill you if they don't like you or are otherwise not well enough in your thrall or paid off to the point where they will do anything.

King Canute was at the water's edge to make a point to his staff. His staff created so much PR for him that they actually believed the PR. King Canute did not, so the best way to prove that the PR wasn't true to his own staff was to go out and try to stop the incoming tide. Wet feet is a small price to pay for an anchor to the actual world as that anchor is necessary for you to have a government policy that makes some sense not just to you, but to the population

Caligula was nuts, granted, but a PaPa Doc who saw himself as some incarnation of a Voodoo supernatural being... well he may not have started off with a full deck, but by the end of it half the cards were missing and he had borrowed some jokers from other decks to fill it out. In general the best that can be hoped for when a despot is that far in is that his aides will quietly pick up the real workload and the leader will slowly be shut off from any real power and may actually die of old age. That is on the good side of things when no one will tell you that you are crazy. The bad side is a version of Caligula. There is no version in which you get to be nuts, self-important and have a positive influence enough to become noteworthy.

Really, your PR that is generated by your staff is pure propaganda when it involves you. While self-aggrandizement is popular, the path that it is on is one of debauchery, decadence and you losing touch with the real world either to the point where it kills you or you are slowly shut away from anything dangerous as your mind crumbles into ruin.

To thwart that, remember King Canute, wet feet and all. A bit of humility on your part and not appointing 'yes-men' to the PR branch will do wonders for you. That doesn't mean using critics, but ensure that those in your employ for PR should know they can tell you just how bad you look to the general public and craft an image appropriate to counter some parts of the perception and, perhaps, reinforce others.

The Next Big Rules of Thumb

If believing your own PR is a bad road to be on, then getting no negative feedback is just as bad as it is the negative feedback that lets you know what the problems are in society. Yes you probably did come to power with a bunch of 'true believers', thugs or a military junta, if you didn't just outright steal some elections and have the opposition killed.

Now look at that coterie that came to power with you.

How truthful will they be to you about the true state of affairs in the nation? Probably not very, right?

When you came to power you found that the old bureaucracy was still more or less functioning and gave a semblance of order to things, so you kept them on even if they were the old regime, as you needed a government that had some functionality to it. Here is a little secret: those are the people who actually run the nation, you are just the leader.

Some governments when they are on a losing end of a fight and their leader has decided to amscray, then just run away from their jobs as they have been thugs utilizing the reins of government to do all sorts of horrific things to the people of the nation. If that is the case, then you are going to have a tough time of it as you not only need something that functions like a government, but then need to give some form to it. The best way to get something up and running is to let the low-level bureaucrats, those actually going out and checking power lines, sewer mains, running power plants... you know the technicians... that they are not targeted by anything going on at the top and are welcome to continue the necessary public services uninterrupted. Doing that shows you actually have some idea of how a government runs and that those 'true believers', thugs, etc. that brought you to power are clueless about what it takes to keep a nation going.

Here the anecdote of Lenin comes to mind, when one of his underlings came in to inform him that the secret police of the regime (this is prior to getting things really going) had infiltrated the party structure! The underling asked: 'What should we do?'

What would you do if you found out that 10-15% of the party bringing you to power was in the pay of the regime you were trying to bring down? Would you execute them? Make their names public? Tell your party bosses that these people are to be marginalized?

If you chose any of those routes then you would probably find yourself not in the position of power you are in as the answer from Lenin was succinct: 'Do? Why should I do anything? Have you seen the party members who are the majority of the party? They are at coffee houses all day long debating fine points of socialism amongst themselves. Who is running the party? The secret police since they must appear to be good and loyal party members and thus do the actual job of the party, while the true believers sit on their butts all day arguing philosophy! Why should we do anything? If we did we would lose the party as no one wants to run it...'

OK, that is paraphrased heavily, and condensed, but you get the picture. Thus the next rule:

3) Leave the technocrats alone, they serve a purpose.

4) Never stop your opponents when they are doing vital work for you.

5) Being honest in your assessment means not having any rose colored glasses on about those around you.

Painful, no?

Honesty Is The Best Policy (even for tyrants)

Are you getting the idea that successful tyrants, dictators, despots and the like have a theme to them? They do. Lenin, while duplicitous in many venues, did not dare put on rose colored glasses when looking at his own party coming to power. King Canute knew he was mortal and used that as a touchstone for his views. They were honest with themselves about what their party was or that they were not above the mortal realm. That was then enforced on their advisers, so that it was understood that the practical matters are important in running a country. Lenin would wander from that path as the old regime's bureaucrats were replaced by party members over time: he had forgotten their attitude towards running much of anything, and if the philosophy of Marxism wasn't prone to running a communist party very well, then it wouldn't run a nation very well, either.

Here is an important maxim for new governments: 'As they come to power, so shall they rule.'

An honest self-assessment is necessary to get an idea of just what your ends will be as supreme ruler of a nation. If you came to power with a blood drenched crew, then did you reward them with positions of power? If so, what are their skills for actually using that power? Do you really expect them to know how to do something without a lot of blood involved? Your early days will tell a lot about your final end, and if you can't put a corrective into place that yields something that is stable and not dependent upon that blood crazed lot that got you into power, then you had best do something right then, in the early days. Otherwise your end days will be just as bloody as your beginning ones.

On the flip side if you used a bunch of corrupt bureaucrats to steal a few elections, then what are your chances that those same bureaucrats will actually stay bought? Are these really the people you want running the mid-levels of the bureaucracy? In many ways their utilization of petty power to get you great power shows that the great power rests on the petty power, and if you used them to get to the top then they know they can take you down by similar means for someone else or another of their brethren.

The lowest level of the bureaucracy, those actually doing work, filling out forms, making sure things are tracked... they may be hated for their minor abuses, but it is the ones just above them at the mid-level that allow those abuses to happen. No matter how you came to power your face is not that of smiling posters plastered all over cities, homes and on passing wildlife, but in the way the bureaucracy is run. If they are petty tyrants you will be seen as a petty tyrant through them. More on this in a bit.

Those people who brought you to power are very dangerous to you, be they 'true believers' or corrupt apparatchiks of a political machine. They made you and they can unmake you. And it is almost certain that the population doesn't like them, as they have disrupted everything to the benefit of the middlemen and to the disfavor of the general population. All those posters hung up to show that you or your party is for 'the people'? That is PR and not very good PR, at that. Do you want people reminded of your hypocrisy, day in and day out? Do you really want that?

One prime lesson of all revolutions or turn-overs in government that are large is this:

6) Those people that brought you to power are your largest threat.

7) Those people who brought you to power aren't necessary any more.

Lenin made sure the Red Guards met a violent end. Hitler had the SS liquidate the SA. Mussolini turned on some of the early thugs that helped him get the Black Shirts going. President Chester A. Arthur, while no despot or tyrant, went after the patronage system that got him high visibility and shocked the hell out of everyone for doing that. This last is a useful reminder that good lessons can come from the normal course of nations that are doing pretty well for themselves, but have corrupt machines of one sort or another in play.

Turning on those who brought you to power has a distinct and honored pedigree to it: Julius Caesar was killed by the cabal that brought him to power and backed him, Octavian then took up that power to put the cabal down. If Julius had the good sense to start the liquidation process on his confederates after coming to power and either dispersing or neutralizing their power bases, then he wouldn't have had such a bloody end.

Getting The Trains To Run On Time Was PR

Italy's train system, pre-Mussolini, was a joke: the trains were ill-kept and reliably late.

The great 'attraction' to fascism is this promise to get the trains to run on time, which has a sweetened condensed version but actually can't work from the top-down:

8) Leave those who know what they are doing at the lowest level in charge.

9) Getting the infrastructure to run well is a top priority to survive.

Here a bit has to be swiped from FA Hayek, in general principle, is that a diverse and complex system cannot be dictated from the top-down. The job at the top position is to lead, but not to tell everyone how to do their jobs as those at the top don't know how to do them. And while corrupt political appointees in a bureaucracy may know how the job actually is done, they are unreliable as you know they can be bought off. Part of getting to power via a corrupt system is that the system is corrupt and if you are just putting yourself in as the Corruptee In Chief, then you will have the stain of each and every low level corruptocrat pinned to your sorry hide.

In many ways this is part rules 3, 6 & 7 of why you need to get rid of the mid-levels of government and shouldn't trust the closest part of it all the way down to those at mid-level management: people in those positions don't work all that well when they become positions of patronage, corruption or just overburdened with rules and regulations. Yes, all of that was handy in getting to power, but that is not the way to secure power. Thus the goal is to remove the corruption with as little fanfare and as much effectiveness as possible. The ward heelers of the SA found a one night putsch against them that was unannounced and extremely effective. The 'true believers' and supporters are the last to believe that they are the cause of the problem, but you should know better as they are disposable to your needs.

If the judicial system is generally reliable, if overburdened, then utilize it to get rid of the corrupt parts of the middle-bureaucracy. You should have the dirt on them, so let your trusted people dig the corrupt bureaucracy out and cut off the air supply of support for them for cash and legal counsel. A long term goal is to get the judiciary running fairly well, and then also get rid of the corrupt lawyers involved in the cases to get rid of the corrupt bureaucrats. Believe it or not, but an impartial judicial system that recognizes your power, at the top, is equally applied, at the bottom, will do you much, much more good than one that bends easily to your wishes. The Judiciary is necessary for a well ordered society and a fair an impartial one is vital to getting corruption out of the system. If you had to buy off judges on the way up, do you really want that venue open to someone else?

You may not have come to power as a reformer, but if the system is bad enough to get you into place then it is in desperate need of reform so you can stay in place. Got it?

Not doing this and putting in a political system where true believers who couldn't figure out how the real world works led to the stagnation and much deeper corruption of the USSR. That got to the point where cleaning out the corruption meant pulling down the system and inviting organized crime into it because they actually had a better idea of how to run things than the bureaucrats did. That is a sad state of affairs to be avoided, at all costs. Because if it is that bad, then an Al Capone sort of figure who makes sure the trash does get picked up on time becomes your greatest enemy.

Here a major lesson can be taken from Imperial China under the Sun Emperors: they had a vast, efficient and generally hard to corrupt bureaucracy in place so that the top guy could make his wishes felt throughout the land, and yet when one died or was deposed, the bureaucracy lived on to keep things running. That system was based on merit-to-entry in the civil service, not how much you could pay someone off. You can learn much about what you need from that concept as it is proven and effective.

A Professional Military Will Keep You In Power

Mind you if you keep getting into major conflicts the military will also see you as the main cause for the drop in morale and the death of their countrymen, so even if they swore up and down on loyalty oaths to you, they will finally see you as the problem. In general the military system in any nation is its most conservative part, and it is a reflection of the population and society it comes from. Ripping a page from Machiavelli, he pointed out that the best defenders of the nation were those who were citizens and land owners as they had a livelihood and family to protect. Mercenaries were the guys you sent elsewhere to do your dirty work, they were not a reliable military core. Some might be very good at training skills, however, so even if you don't hire them for combat operations, they may prove to be startlingly effective as trainers when they know it is not their hides on the line.

If the military system is corrupt, say it brought you to power and sees you as replaceable as its pawn, then it needs a major overhaul and reform. Sad to say, no matter how good they are, being corrupt means that the military isn't going to be useful as a power structure for stability. More importantly you don't want to be putting 'true believers' into it, as they aren't all that reliable on the military affairs front. If you came up through the ranks (or bought your way through) then you know who the corrupt actors are and they need to go. What needs to be put in their stead is, like the civil service, a merit based system for advancement. This needs to be overseen by an internal affairs organization known as the Inspectors General.

This is a handy system invented to root out corruption in merit based systems, so that there would be an even-handed application of the rules on all things military and make sure that the money given the military is spent well. These people in the IG have to be the most anal-retentive, rules-based, stick to the program people in the organization, and getting them is a major first task. Many nations have low level officers 'on the take' so that even Staff Sergeants can be bought off. This is bad, very bad, for enlistee morale... and it is a volunteer service or at least one that has universal but short periods for everyone (say two years of training and time in service to know what it is like).

You, as Commander in Chief need to review all the material necessary to reform the military and make sure the most incorruptible officers rise to the top to ensure the military is a good, hard tool of the nation, and not some flaccid organ of a party or chock-full-o-dogmatist philosophers as they don't fight that well.

10) The Inspectors General System is purpose built to root out corruption, get one or keep it that way.

11) Equal application of rules and regulations internal to the military and civil service is mandatory.

There are pros and cons to both models of the enlistee or the universal service military systems. In general small nations can use the latter as compact societies come to understand the need of standing together regardless of class, wealth, etc. This is vitally important as the wealthy must serve and must not be allowed to game the system to get out of service: no lotteries, it is either everyone serves or it is all volunteer. Everyone must learn the craft of warfare at its lowest level for a small nation to survive.

The all-volunteer form of force is one that can enforce internal cohesion for the military efficiently and has dedication to their craft. These are the people who want to serve the nation, want to be in the military and the military structure will weed out the killers and barbarians who just love blood. Why? They tend not to be very professional in their attitude and that is bad for morale. Have those referred over to your secret police for work, then keep an extremely tight grip on them and expend them as necessary to get dirty work done abroad. Every tyrant needs a small corps of people with bloodlust, and they really shouldn't be in society as that will get them in jail, where they aren't useful to you. Better to use them on your overseas opponents and then just claim they are wackos doing things on their own. That will not be far from the truth, either, for a few of them, I'm sure.

Now if your military isn't corrupt (and that is a godsend of huge proportions) then you have one institution that is suitable for molding the other institutions of civil service and getting them up and running. An effective, merit-based military system that is conservative and has an equivalent of an Inspectors General system has been one that has been the back-bone of some of the most long-lasting and powerful institutions on this planet. Good efficient military structures have been a prime source for modeling other institutions for ages.

An example?

The Roman Legions were the most powerful military of their era and created a fundamental system of command and control that remains unaltered, to this day, in another institution which copied it and it would become powerful on the planet for centuries due to this system of order. That second group is the Roman Catholic Church and their entire church structure of Dioceses, Arch-Diocese and such is stolen lock, stock and barrel from the Roman Legions, often with the same titles attached the positions. Long after the fall of the Roman Empire, the Roman Legion's system of order continues to exist in the Roman Catholic Church, just prettied up and toned down as befits a religious order.

Another example is the military system under Bismarck which was emulated by businesses in the US trying to figure out a good way to run corporations. They decided that the basic system of Germany for its military, the orderly 16 Privates to 1 Sergeant, was a good one for workshops and so on, just by changing the titles a bit. That system was emulated by any organization that needed to harness the power of a number of employees, keep track of them and keep work flowing on an orderly basis. The 'line manager' which is that most local of management in corporations is actually a reflection of the German military and the corporate structure over that is reflective of the German rank system all the way up to the CEO. This was emulated by foreign militaries, police departments, sports franchises, civil services and, indeed, any wide ranging, large scale organization that came up in the early 20th century. Only in the latter part of the 20th century did the ability of electronics to allow better tracking and decentralization of work flows break with that Bismarckian system.

If you have a problem with the military and its goals and aims, then you need to be brutally honest with yourself that this is a blind spot of epic proportions that no dictator or tyrant can have. Military systems and organization types have been far, far more effective and long lasting than any other type of system known to mankind and it is a wise ruler that examines it for pointers on how to get an efficient, merit-based system going.

Why Merit?

Why is a wise dictator smart enough to enforce a merit-based system?

They work.

I've given examples ranging widely across centuries of merit-based systems that continue on their own without much help from the top: Sun Emperors of China and their bureaucracy, Bismarckian military systems emulated to this day by other militaries, police and corporations, the Roman Legion's system is still in place as a structure in the Roman Catholic Church. Merit-based systems are good at creating order and keeping order and tinkering with them to make them 'better' ( ie. to adhere to some temporary movement in politics or culture) usually makes them worse and prone to corruption and non-merit based factors. When non-merit based factors become determinants in how an organization is run, then the goal of the organization is no longer that of rewarding merit and running efficiently but to follow the non-merit based determinants.

When a behavior that is not relevant to an organization's mission is inculcated and rewarded, you get more of that behavior and less of the behavior necessary to run the organization's mission. Is the best way to get the trains to run on time to shoot engineers who miss the deadline by 5 minutes? Or to reward those who make timely schedules with few to no errors in routing and in all way perform up to expectations of performance? Mussolini tried the first for awhile and found it didn't work, plus he started to run out of people who wanted to be in the train running business.

Do you want a DMV that concentrates on getting your forms processed, licenses issued, driving tests done and behaving in a civil manner? Then why does it get burdened down with work rules that don't reward that and then enforce work rules that are not primary nor relevant to its mission? If the system you rose through is dysfunctional, you can probably place your finger on the primary culprit being the actual government you just got rid of, that decided it was more interested in 'nice' things rather than people doing their jobs.

As the top dog of the show as dictator, you get to enforce a few things and cutting out the detritus (and hangers-on jobs, plus lobbyists and all the corruption from that) for special treatment in a system will mean some more upheaval. Unlike what got you to power, however, you will be seen as 'throwing the bums out' and 'cleaning up the system'. You aren't killing these people, mind you, just cutting their ties to your regime and to the government. This is vitally important as you require an efficient government that is well run to stay in power, which is why you practiced 6 & 7 on them. When you cut off the pig trough and gravy train, the pigs will squeal and you can point out that bacon is very tasty and that you really did mean an end to the old way of doing things, not just continuing on the corruption with a new face. Those fired and cut off from political windfall of cronyism will find more productive jobs or wind up in your efficiently run prisons from your efficiently run judiciary with lawyers that know their job is to argue the case, not the law.

Never lose sight of that: your ability to stay in power is directly proportional to how well the government is run. You run it worse than it was before and your expected life span declines with it. Put in a meritorious, treat no one special and everyone gets the same rules applied to them, and you can expect a much longer lifespan as at least government is doing its job. You might even get some spare cash for a public works project or three if the economy improves because of it: unless there is a crying need for yet another palace, hand it back. Why? You are in power, if you need a public works project to self-aggrandize, then you are not long for being in power. Remember that rule (9) is a touchstone.

Don't hype a good economy. Remember rule (1) and that no matter how much you think you are the cause of getting things going, you aren't. You have put in a system to let other people run it right for you.

12) Getting government to run well is your job. Don't forget it.

Yes when you become the tyrant, dictator or despot, you really can change a few things, but your head remaining intact and on your shoulders is absolutely dependent upon how you are seen by your people. You don't need posters, nor give great speeches, nor even be much of the sort to parade around in military get-up in front of throngs coerced to be there and cheer on cue. If that is why you are in it, then you may live for some years, you may even kill enough to cow the populace, but your actual accomplishments in history will be that of footnote.

Despicable Can Mean 'Respected'

There are only a few in the realm of dictators or Kings or Potentates that have ruled like the above: most are in it for themselves, petty power and having a good, but short time of things. Most dictators are brutal to their own people and when they are gone, are little mourned. Yet, even though he ruled for a short time, there is one that can typify the most brutal of fighters on the battlefield and then wielding an Iron system at home.

Who is that?

Vlad Tepes.

Vlad the Impaler.

Vlad of the Dragon Order... Dracula.

Why is this monster of the battlefield still an icon in Romania? Because of his rule of law while he still had his Kingdom. It was one where a rich man could drop a purse in broad daylight, leave it out in the middle of the street and expect to find it there, untouched, the next day. The law allowed no transgression and those who did transgress would be found and dealt with severely.

He fought for his people in a horrific manner as he saw was necessary to stop his foes from abroad. He was a canny battlefield commander who utilized psychological warfare via blood warfare of the most brutal sort recounted in history. Flashing 30,000 dead with a nuclear fireball in no way compares to having 10,000 put up on pikes... impaled alive... left to twitch in the daylight and slowly die. While the victorious commander had his meal to watch over the newborn field of piked flowers. That happened multiple times.

He staved off utter destruction of his country by being so ruthless that he was feared after death and married up to the local stories of vampires. Yet it was brutality in the service of protecting his countrymen, indeed all of civilization as he saw it. His iron administration of law equally to rich and poor was a guarantee of justice for any that sought to disturb the order of society by their petty criminal acts.

Another one who waged wars abroad and yet set things right at home was Hammurabi. He had a relatively peaceful ascension to the throne, and proved to be an astute commander in many campaigns. At home he had the first written laws set into stone so that everyone would know what the law actually was. His laws were simple, easy to understand and available for everyone to see and the interpretation was backed by a punishment system that scaled to the offense and social standing of the individual. A number of them end in death... which is something that Vlad Dracula would probably approve.

Remember that the fairly administered, harsh and easy to understand law is better than the complex ones meant to 'satisfy everyone'. You are not in power to satisfy everyone, but ensure that a known, stable order is achieved so as to allow you a few minor excesses and petty indulgences. That is expected of a dictator, after all.

From this come the next important rules of thumb:

13) Laws must be easy to understand, brook no deviation, and have understood penalties to them.

14) You are not above the law nor outside it.

Now I will hear complaints aplenty as you are the one setting the laws.

But are you?

One of the pieces of wisdom from Kings back in the day they were Kings, is that the law is set by those coming from the nation and that the King can tell them to make it cleaner, more succinct, and the punishments clearer so that he can administer them and the courts judge them. This was put together in 'The Thing' the annual gathering of 'Lawgivers' from towns and provinces in places like Sweden, Norway and Denmark, and the King must recognize that he is an actual member of that nation and bound by its laws.

You may have come to power in extra-legal circumstances, either by happenstance or arranged, but for a well run government and nation that must be a short, short period that ends in a definitive way. If you don't end that in a definitive way, then you are still living in extra-legal times and someone else can do unto you as you did to get to where you are. That is 'footnote in history' material, not really worth more than a few sentences. Look up the span of dictators in, say, Haiti during the 19th century and you get the idea of what non-entities squabbling over petty power is all about. Also note how many of them did not end well in their lives.

If you had high ideals coming to the power game, the game itself should disabuse you from the high ideals actually having any basis in human nature. A 'true believer' of, say, communism, has tried their best to red color their glasses in as much blood as possible and miss out that human nature hasn't changed one iota due to the ascent of communism. Is capitalism bad? Sure! But it recognizes human nature as part of the game. Communism, socialism, fascism, 'Greens', Anarchists, Progressives and the entire lot that made the old sorts of Nobility and Royalty out to be somehow better than everyone else, miss this point: no matter how 'good' your ideals, they don't mean squat to the average person and getting them to say that it does means rivers of blood for decades and still sees no change in human nature.

That isn't because people are 'bad' or 'evil', it is that humans are a part of nature and this must be recognized first and foremost before you get to any political clap-trap. The point of The Code of Hammurabi wasn't to be lordly unto men, but to give a clearly defined set of rules of what is and is not allowable in society in the way of human nature. It is still known, cited and quoted to this day and the guy lived around 1700 BC. Of all the Kings, Emperors, etc. that come by that title, he is one of the few that actually earned it. The title did not make him good, but he made good the title. See how that works?

Don't Shoot The Lawyers

William Shakespeare can't be wrong, right?

In this case the idea isn't that you don't want to shoot the lawyers, but you want to keep them out of the writing and the judging of the law. This really is important as there are few professions where you can do an activity that will force all of society to pay homage to it, and then get to write laws that force them to do that. Any system that allows lawyers to write, judge and argue the law will find that the system is being crafted to be a full-employment for lawyers system. Also they will make the law horrifically complex because they are lawyers and lawyers can get more money by spending hours researching the complexity of the law on a given case than by actually arguing the law before a judge and/or jury. Lawyering is a profession, not a license to become petty dictators to all of society.

The nation has you for the dictatoring business, and you don't need any rivals high or low for that. Thus the next rule of thumb and, thankfully the last for this short work, is:

15) Lawyers argue law, and are barred from any other occupation for life dealing with the law.

That last part is important as it will kill the 'revolving door' of lawyers finding a way to get into the law making realm, then shift over to the law arguing realm so they can get high profile cases to get to the law judging realm. It is the description of a corrupt system, and you don't need that. By forcing lawyers to take their job seriously and to actually understand that simple law has fine nuances and that they will be dedicated professionals or beggars.

If you started out with a surplus of lawyers this will get rid of them in no time at all, or bring the cost of actually presenting arguments of the law before an impartial judge very, very cheap and make the lawyer one of modest means. Modest lawyers who know that they actually have to work for a living is one of the best of all situations to be in as it means that they, like any good trade-craft professional, must actually perform well to stay in business. Those who were the 'ambulance chasers' and on a merry-go-round of lobbying/lawyering/legislating/judging will find that the merry-go-round has come to a grinding halt rather suddenly and that if they aren't hanging on tightly, that they will find themselves doing something more productive with their time.

Plus when a few of them get together and try to game the system, they get to be tried by an judge who isn't a lawyer and have the facts of the law argued against them by someone who would really, and for true, like to put them out of business so that the supply of lawyers can go down so the cost per hour can go up. By lowering the barrier of entry to the law system by having simple and easy to understand laws, you will make it possible for the common person with just a bit of capability to get into the law profession, even as a side-light because you don't need a massive, multi-year education to become a lawyer, just the ability to read the law, how it has been applied in the past and then see how that figures into their cases they take.

You don't have to put lawyers up against the wall to remove them as a source of corruption in society, you just have to make them take their trade seriously and not as means to get on an ever-escalating system of more complex law that requires more research, time and, therefore, money to practice. By keeping it simple and keeping the lawyers out of the other aspects of the law, particularly by cutting off the lobbying system of crony organizations to government, you create a system where the path of easy corruption is removed. Individuals lobby government, not businesses: if businesses wanted to be considered 'people' then make a 'three strikes and you're out law' for any business that transgresses against the law and is found convicted of crimes three times: they are gone, liquidated, sold at auction in pieces never to be reformed again. Put a human-length time limit on them so that they die of 'natural causes' that being a law which makes it so they can't transfer wealth, assets or their business to any other business so as to survive past their natural death time in the law. If businesses want to be fictional persons, they can die like real persons and have the ultimate penalty of discorporation wielded against them.

Where This Gets You

Every big boss, dictator, tyrant, Emperor, head honcho finds that, over time, the burdens of actually governing are far, far harder than coming to power. Coming to power is dead simple compared to governing, or even just ruling fairly with an iron fist. Your objective is to deny the easy paths to power from any competitors so they can't do to you what you did to the previous form of government. The idea is to make 'fairness' work with you to create an equitable system that stays equitable, over time, and shuts down the pathways of corruption upwards by addressing it at all levels of government and society.

In doing this you aren't, of necessity, dictating a 'new social order' but putting in place a comprehensible system of laws, rules and governing that everyone understands and has a stake in. The proper role of government to society is a necessary evil: it is a Punisher of misdeeds. Government cannot tell people how to think, what to think or even very much of what to do in life. It can tell them what they can't do, but that needs to be simple, straightforward and comprehensible via the law so that any lay-person can understand it. Government that tries to favor certain activities at the lowest level of society becomes corrupt via the use of 'carrot and stick approach' which is to reward certain classes of behavior and punish others. Unfortunately the rewards system entices those wanting rewards into government so they, like lawyers, can rig the system in their favor. That is not the point nor the object of the law nor of government, and you have to remember that when the laws get drafted and sent to you for approval: your will is iron and your word makes national law by its assent.

Really, if the people in the society can't figure this out on the first go-around, by trying to put in all sorts of fun national laws on littering, sexual acts, and the like, then your ripping up the paper with those simple to say but impossible to enforce laws at the national level will drive the point home. A visit from your secret police at night to remind these fine fools that they are not without stain in their lives should be the last word on it: you don't have to call them out as hypocrites publicly, just remind them of their private shame and to not moralize when they are not without sin. If people want those laws, then the local level is good enough for you. National level laws need to be fully supported by the population and must be something that takes out as much leeway for prosecution and judgment as possible, so that the law is applied equally to all. Even to you.

Really, if you want to have a number of sex partners in your life, do you really want a national law that forbids that, especially if you happen to be married? And this is serious stuff as when the state gets involved in what is and isn't immoral, it can only do so with things that are widely held to be immoral, are actually immoral and a source of corruption to the population as a whole, not via individual parts. That is what national law is all about: the nation as a whole. Your place at the top is to remove the harmful parts of government to society so that society can then flourish outside of those venues overseen by government and enforced by law. If you want to scandalize the nation with your acrobatics in the bedroom, then make sure you don't make a law against it. And as the entire national treasury is available, petty bribes are an insult, not a 'social grace'. Learning to see the distinction between these is vital, in the long-term, as a population scandalized by your private acts that you indulge in on a private basis and do not do so publicly will then give people something to talk about! Being a moral reprobate, in private and not inflicting your peccadillos on the nation via law will show that you give much leeway for what happens in private and that you understand that enough to keep these shameful (and sometimes shameless) acts out of what you do in public.

Keeping your secret police on a short, harsh and brutal leash is your reminder to everyone that you aren't kidding about this public/private barrier. That those that inflict harm in public or transgress a very few of the private wrongs that government must address (like murder, rape, and a few other crimes that must be clearly distinguished and actually remain local affairs) is far, far different than those which inflict harm on the public via intent or neglect. Hammurabi made slander, bearing false witness and bringing up unsubstantiated charges against someone capital crimes: you died for doing them. Those are public crimes, where one citizen feels they can impugn and degrade another citizen in public forums so as to get their way on whatever it is they are going on about. You don't care what they were going on about, you care about the impugning part as that is corrosive to society as a whole if left unchecked. Private degradation, asked for and consenting is a cause for gossip and finger-pointing, not a legal matter so long as it is kept in private.

By creating a system where the people in government have real jobs to do, not positions of becoming intermediaries for lobbyists wanting their corrupting exemptions from the law and taxation, you put together a system that is very, very hard to get a foot hold in. That includes you as you, also, have a real job as Head of State, Head of Government, Chief Executor of the Laws, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, and probably a few other titles less grand and glorious.

Your title is not 'Chief Cook and Bottle Washer'. It may feel like it is after a few years, but it isn't.

Simple, basic governing is relatively simple but is a job. Making sure the military is a fit institution to, firstly, guard the nation and, secondly, make sure foes understand you have the capability to hit back and hard, is a primary duty. You can't hand it off to some lot of generals to do for you. A rigorous, professional military that takes its job seriously is a fine reflection of society: don't screw it up.

Putting the common man in charge of his daily life at the lowest level, and stopping him from trying to muck around with moralistic behavior at the national level is vital, as well. Tell these fine folks that they have to try that out at the local level, keep clear of any of the few national laws covering the area of conduct, and then prove that it works over time at the lowest of levels before you will even consider it at the national level. National laws need to be few, succinct and easy to understand and be part of the actual job of government. It is not a full employment system for lawyers, moralizers, priests, environmentalists or, indeed, any class or group of individuals. Term limits are a grand idea of legislative types and set, short terms for judges so they have a chance to experience a real life is something to consider. No one is above the law, not even you, and those that judge it should not be distant from it by having life terms: by experiencing the impact of the law, lawyers and judicial rulings, judges-to-be need that experience foremost by living in society, not above it. Constant turn-over of government personnel making and judging law means that there is always a fresh set of faces and people will see this as a short-term job, not a career.

Lawyers have careers.

Legislators and judges do not.

Nor do you.

Leaving the Scene

By putting together a meritorious system, with few but easy to understand laws and safeguards against corruption, you are trying to form the pathway out of your dictatorship or tyrannical rule. Which would you prefer it to be:

  • Your blood stained body with a chalk outline around it?
  • Your children figuring out how to get rid of you to get to power?
  • A cabal working in secret to have you poisoned?
  • Your secret police deciding you are disposable?
  • An orderly transition in which you get to take a few of your goodies and leave to a lawfully elected, limited term, limited power successor?

You are creating the last scenario, although you will step on enough toes and wield enough power to get one of the prior ones if you aren't careful. Your progeny are nothing special, being brought up pampered and with all sorts of people wanting to corrupt them with sex, drugs, and the allure of your power. Getting your transition set up in case of your untimely demise and passed by the legislature and to the common acclaim of the people means that your term will also be set, even if it is life.

Some people are attracted to power, and that is probably you. It is a fatal attraction. It will kill you or have you killed by others with it, if you don't have the will and stamina to know that you will have to put the drug aside at some point in time. Having an orderly transition set by law will reassure the nation and it will set in your mind that you can leave, and not feet first, either. You will have also set up a deadly trap of a system for whoever comes after you as their term, unlike yours, will be limited by law and have finality to it at the start, so that it is also a job, not a career nor a love affair with power. The system you have set up will be limiting to any successor by design: they will not have the power you had, your secret police will have their names published (really, did they expect it to go on forever?), and the tools that will be left behind are ones that are constrained so that the next person with a lust for power will find it a very, very difficult lust to indulge in as it will be fatal much earlier on than it was for you.

You will also have put in place a fully functional, limited and hard to corrupt government at all levels. Those harsh penalties, Inspectors General, and lack of lobbyists will mean that those who enter government service are doing so for a low paying job... and you will make sure that it is far lower paying than what a veteran ditch digger makes, right? Anyone wanting a career in the civil side of government isn't taking a vow of poverty, but they aren't getting a life-long path to wealth at public expense, either. The barriers to entry to the public sector jobs must include things like having an actual, viable skill that relates to the job, the ability to read and write coherently, and the ability to live within very modest means. It is simple, dull and enriching work, spiritually, but pays very little so that those entering into the career are, like the military, dedicated professionals, not time-markers or sluggards. Without any real recognition of time served as a waiver for inability to do a job, that means that going up in the workforce means that each person is busy, competent or professional or they are out on their ear as the merit based system extends across the entire government. Getting fired from that sort of system because you can't perform the necessary, relatively low level tasks involved makes that ditch digger's job look pretty good, in comparison. Thus, like the military, the civil service will be lean, compact, professional and dedicated to their jobs, and not tolerate slackers or those looking for a government gravy train for life. You work hard and so will everyone involved in government. Or else.

Your legacy will depend upon what you leave behind as much as what you did as a ruthless, brutal dictator to get to power. That ruthless efficiency that gets you to power also means that you should understand the functions of power and its limitations, or else you will have a short life or just be yet another vainglorious footnote in the history books. If you have the wisdom to cut the change-over time down to a minimum, get rid of the extraneous hangers-on to you and the old system, make sure that civil service remains operational and either start or extend a merit based system of government, you may find that the distribution of daily power will secure your position to get the rest of the items in place. Getting a simplified form of government in place, with simple laws and simple rules for its operation, and ensuring that everyone feels like a stake-holder for the long term is vital after getting your major rivals and supporters eliminated or marginalized. With the end of the old regime's highest and mid-level of bureaucracy, the lowest levels are handed the responsibility to work out how they should operate and you will sign off on a merit-based system, either de novo or drafted with the help of the military. Either way a pathway of responsibility based on capability, and not who you know, must be set in place as you want people who actually do feel responsible to be responsible and accountable for what they do.

Such a huge change-over from the prior regime lets you jettison all of its baggage: social programs, redundant military spending, overseas bribes, its being in bed with factions seeking to influence government for their own ends, and the entire regulatory regime can all go. The basics of government of protecting the nation, ensuring that laws are evenly administered, that a simple and basic set of laws with strict enforcement is put in place and then the feedback from the lowest levels upwards in drafting new laws based on the new and simplified system will buy you time, lots of time. There will be turmoil, yes, but then you never did promise to be a Sugar Daddy handing out goodies from the candy store, did you? If you did that is a promise easily broken when you see the fiscal realities of where the old regime left the nation. It will shock and appall you. They didn't have the willpower to gut the government to do the basics, and that is why you are where you are at, most likely, as governmental incompetence is reflected by spendthrift behavior as that is human nature.

The use of the tools at hand will need to transition from 'reign of terror' or 'the necessary turmoil' to one of hard and ordered regularity that is brutal in its quality, even while being administered equally in all respects. Learning the difference between the foes who want you dead and the foes who want their way put in place (or back in place) and the foes who just want you to go away is necessary. You can actually fade into the woodwork once the transition system is set up and let the last set of foes settle down as you don't plaster your face on every open square inch of the country and, instead, look to rule via governing. The first type of foe needs to learn that having you dead, at any point for the immediate transition and post-transition phase, will end up with all of them dead via the last of your extra-legal organs, the secret police. That tool of tyrants is a hard one to put down or phase out, and if you can remove its secrecy and get regular training for its individuals, you may have the beginnings of a dedicated force to protect the government via normal, legal affairs. Doing that can help get rid of the major talking point against you from the second set of foes, and the first set may finally come to realize that as bad as you are, for wanting you dead they are actually worse: you are working to improve things, they aren't.

A Legacy is Something You Make

Getting a lasting legacy means many things as history has proven. Lets review a few so you can get an idea of how that works.

Julius Caesar was an extremely competent general and a so-so Emperor that thought that those who helped him to power would be reliable. They weren't.

Vladimir Lenin was pragmatic getting to power, but then dogmatic once in power, and with the dysfunctional party he led, he then inculcated that dysfunctional system into the USSR. At heart he was a 'true believer' and they tend to leave a legacy of bloodshed behind them as 'true believers' brook no variation from their perfect view of the world. It got the USSR Stalin to prove that point and the end of the USSR was that of a dysfunctional system at all levels, just like the Communist Party was.

Mao left a bloody trail behind him at every turn: coming to power, instituting a transition, ruling based on flawed concepts of technology and infrastructure, killing off foes without batting an eye and even believing that the simple expedient of killing everyone in the drug trade would end the drug trade. On that last he had only driven it underground to become far more efficient to the point that when he died it started to come back and infiltrate the new government and its military system. Organized crime is there to supply the things that aren't allowed by law, and Mao and the Chinese System after him left wide venues for it.

Emperor Justinian had the perfect military commander to retake most of the old Empire and put the Persian Empire on notice. As an Emperor he was incapable of putting down a coherent system of government, so no matter how great the victories in the name of the Empire while alive, the entire thing withered away in short order.

The Sun Emperor system is known by its rulers, but as a system it proved to be resilient beyond the capabilities, or lack thereof, of any single Emperor. In many ways the system was stifling to new technology as that would disrupt the system, and this is to be avoided by keeping the bureaucracy compact with its missions and power limited.

Emperor Caligula is an example of doing everything wrong, and getting killed by his bodyguards. Don't marry your sister, don't have large and luxurious barges built at high public expense, don't think you are a military genius, don't think you talk with the top god and don't think you should challenge his brother to a contest. The man was nuts, and if any of that sounds good to you, then you will have to watch out for your bodyguards to put the nation outside of the reach of your misery.

Hammurabi proved to be an excellent commander and even better ruler, putting together a great code of law that could easily be chiseled out and put up in major towns and cities. He didn't do so well on how to transition the entire affair and you can take pointers from history after him, but never miss his good lessons on simple, if brutal, laws and law enforcement.

Adolph Hitler mistook tactics for strategy, so when he ordered the Blitzkrieg on the Low Countries and France, his Generals (outside of Rommel) quivered in their boots remembering WWI. He then did not go on through Spain to get Gibraltar and effectively hobble the UK. By not understanding that Gibraltar was a massive and strategic target that could be taken by land, he then doubled down on that by thinking that Blitzkrieg war could work in the USSR which was not as technologically advanced, infrastructure-wise as the rest of Europe. That ended the war, even though millions more would die it was for a cause lost by an amateur at warfare.

These sorts made a name for themselves, but note how many are names of infamy, not fame? The Infamous who are able to carry out their ideas are a constant fascination to the public as they wonder just how anyone could have rightly seen what they were doing as 'good' for their people. Caesar, Hitler and Hammurabi all were trying to 'good' as they saw it, and each of them was deeply flawed in their outlooks on their allies, their world view and that things would continue grandly when they died, respectively. While mankind has seen more in the way of Empires since the start of the written record, the ability of Kings, Emperors, dictators, tyrants, despots, and the entire 'one man ruling over a nation' has been one that takes place when the population is generally denied the ability to learn to read, write, and talk about what they are reading and writing.

Hitler, Stalin and Mao all used the media to give them great PR, and to varying degrees they each believed it. Of course if you are killing off the non-'true believers' to leave you with the 'true believers' you do have something seriously wrong in your outlook on governing. Books were written about folks like Saddam Hussein, but how about the guy who was ruling in Tunisia? Quite a few things written about Kaddafi, yes, but the Papa and Baby Doc Duvaliers? Even if you do believe your own PR, kill all the naysayers, and then get your 'agenda' going, it must be recognized that temporal success is not in any way enduring for the infamous. In the case of Caesar, he marked the final end of the Republic and the recognition of Empire, and by two Emperor's later the ruling system was coming apart and only the inertia of a illiterate subject base gave some semblance of continued order. At least Hammurabi knew that the basic laws must be something that can be read by one man, remembered, and said plainly to those without the ability to read, and he marked the high point of his Empire when others didn't take that into consideration.

There is a morbid fascination with the infamous on the list of tyrants, dictators and despots, even in historical times. Why? Most of them were trained at premier institutions, colleges or, in older times, had the best tutors, teachers and scholars train them for years if not longer. This lot are not, necessarily, the 'downtrodden commoner rising to power' but people who actually believed that, due to their training, they were fit to decide all the matters of society. In fact the one thing that the well trained infamous have in common is the blind spot that their university or high level education made them unable to understand how the world actually works in the way of society because they did not throw themselves into society but saw themselves fit to rule over it, either by personality or by some form of party rule. Vlad Tepes had to take part in society as it was a very small state that he ruled, and because of that he fought harder for his people than those trained in the higher arts and saw themselves 'above' the people they ruled. Genghis Khan rode out to break Empires and societies to his will, impose his barbaric order and, when he died, the thing he created began to collapse as no one could understand all the peoples in such a wide-ranging area nor control them save but temporarily. Those peoples were, by and large, illiterate, and when the local imposed rulers were overthrown the more local and marginally more competent despots were put back in place. A ruler, even back then, had to recognize the differences in society to build much of anything and survive, and you don't have their luxury of education (even self-education) being cheap and easy to do. And every corrupt organization trying to make it more expensive and harder is fighting a rear-guard action against a sea change in human affairs that has been ongoing for centuries. Remember King Canute, he knew it was vainglorious to try and stop the tides and knew his PR was BS. He was wise enough to understand the basics, and recognize them and today the basics hit back much harder than in his day.

You live not only in a time where literacy is widespread but, in general, unstoppable: modern electronics and communications systems make the old style Hydraulic Empires and even the new style sycophant media obsolete. If you are reading this, it is thanks to that system, not in spite of it. One individual with a bit of wherewithal can pass messages to thousands (and in China where this is hitting hard, tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands) which can then store and forward that information cheaply, easily and still be next to dirt poor. Even breaking the literate class is no longer a viable option unless you are trying to tear the world down into a Dark Age. After the last Dark Age a system started that would marginalize the ability of Empires and even Kingdoms to survive in anything but name only: that was the rise of the Nation State. Even if you are declared King or Emperor, you are nothing more than a dictator living on a very thin edge of time that has been unconsciously designed by mankind to make one-man rule obsolete.

You may be one of the last of the Old Breed, and so are those who believe in the Omnipotent Power of the Nation State or Transnational System: the system wasn't put together to give them or you a lot of leeway and more of that leeway is being cut down over time. Your job is to survive, run the nation well, and then figure out a way to make a system that allows you to exit with your life, a bit of cash, and a lot of disdain. You can't do that and be an old style 20th century dictator, save in places of crushing poverty and illiteracy... then look at exactly where you are in relationship to, say, the average homeless person in a major city in a developed nation. You can accomplish a lot, but this isn't about you, as a person, but you as the nation's leader. You need help to survive, and killing everyone who blinks sideways at you will see you able to only do less, not more, over time.

Take good lessons where you can find them, like in Rudy Giuiliani's observation that if you take care of the small crimes and track them down, the larger crimes take care of themselves. That is a nugget of wisdom not only about 'community policing' but that in having police who can learn their neighborhoods, they know the actors and can more easily track down the likely suspects by their knowledge of past crimes and individuals. Chester Arthur demonstrated that those that brought you to power are probably not much liked and curbing or ending their power will demonstrate that you are your own man to be dealt with on your own terms. Calvin Coolidge showed that the best way to get a booming economy is to cut the size and presence of government, and he was very effective and establishing that as a working and demonstrated concept: you are stealing a lot from his playbook.

What you are putting together is a 'best of breed' dictatorship that recognizes the problems of a dictator based system and realizing that it is only an intermediate stage in national affairs. How defective you are will be reflected in the nation, as a whole, and your lifespan will depend greatly on how well you carry out the top dog duties. These aren't all the duties of a Nation State, mind you, as you recognize that no individual can actually know enough to do that right. In fact you go beyond that and recognize that no sub-group of people have a 'one true way' to guide a nation. That is why you devolve as much power as you can to lower levels or other institutions as fast as possible and keep them accountable.

You can't do it all. Your lifespan is limited. Your character defects will show up as you try to take on more and more power, and you will become less and less competent at wielding it. You also recognize this is a problem of Nation States, as a class, and that any national government looking to tell everyone what to do in their lives is not long for this world.

You are going to surprise the hell out of everyone by not being a power hungry megalomaniac

By not being a kleptocrat.

By not terrorizing his own people and becoming detested for it.

The failures in history tell you a path to success and how to close down the tyrant's pathway after you go down it, so the next person to get that hankering in your nation finds it much, much, much harder to do. In that way you are working to put the tide of human affairs to your help, not against you, and by recognizing the tide you can make it work so that you, as a last of the Old Breed, set an example to others on how this is done.

Some Final Tips & Tricks

Make sure your nation's currency is based on some standard and known quantity. Gold, silver, platinum all work well as do some other metals. A unit of currency equal to a gram of gold makes for a nice looking coin with gold leaf down its center and a fine place to put national emblems on two sides of it. Your face does not belong on currency. Nor that of any of your family or confederates. You are above that.

Your children need to learn that you will spring for an education that has them in a trade-craft. Electrician, plumber, carpenter, something along those lines. When they get older and whine, bitch, moan and complain that they really need money, hand them some equivalent of a million dollars from the Treasury. Let them know it is from the Treasury. Ask them what they did with it a year later, and if they are asking for money, tell them they will only get an education at the worst school you can find, or they can go into a religious order, or they can make their own way in the world. The one that invests the money to start a business will thank you for the cash to do so, and have little use for politics. That one has enriched the nation and should be held up as a way for all of the children of the rich to go.

The Nation's military needs a tight budget, sustainment on operations and management, a tight military law system, and not to have all sorts of 'good ideas' thrust on it by you or a legislature. You don't know enough about military affairs to figure out what they need, and the legislators are looking for crony business. Those seeking to funnel funds from the Treasury to their cronies need to have a simple, Hammurabi style law applied to them.

Budgets come from government bureaus and are organized by the executive. That is you. You also have a budget, keep it tight and make sure the secret police are put under the 'Misc' category. Draw down 'Misc' expenditures over time, and generally send back budgets not asking for more money and personnel to the bureaucrats. Hand that over to the legislative branch to amend or excise funding and powers. They get to say how much gets spent in the way of what government needs to fund, and if they want more they must justify it to you, and that needs to be a huge majority of, say, 75% to get that sort of thing through over your objections. Growing government's size and powers needs to be hard, make sure that it is very hard to do. Corruption will always get into a system, but by making penalties for it harsh, making the process of being corrupt one that requires super-majorities and by placing that in front of the citizenry, you will be seen as the one wanting a fiscally sound government. You can't control the system after you leave, but setting it up to be hard for future dictator wannabe's is necessary.

A word on wars: DON'T. Take a quick review of the every-day budget of the military in peace time. Ask your generals what the cost of a defensive war would be against you the largest nation that can reasonably get to you in a week of sea travel. Once they revive you from your faint, you will understand that when you ask how to mitigate those costs, you will be told to prepare defensive works and structures, plus have a good internal system of travel and communications. Getting the smaller units in the nation (provinces, counties, districts, what have you) to actually care about maintaining and improving what they are doing locally suddenly moves from the level of what you want for dessert after dinner next Thursday to something of prime importance. For all of that, the national government can only do a few things to get such a system in place, and getting a good internal commercial system running will, as a happy side-light, get you what you want for military needs. That is a project of years, not months or days. Throw in a couple of forts or bases for the military in areas where it needs to defend that it currently can't and the logistics needs of that establishment will bring it roads and communications via locals wanting to sell goods and services to the military. Offensive wars cost more than defensive ones, need even more pre-preparation and can only utilize a fraction of the military part of defensive preparations although all of the roads and means of communications. So unless you have a world-beating weapon laying around, the necessity for a compact, competent, capable and highly defensive military system is obvious. You train for offense, but everyone becomes very familiar with defense.

Corporations, as legal fictions, are very useful and need to be extremely limited. As their lifespan can outlast governments and even nations in the same territory, their power can be the one that causes those changes. Thus the fiction of a corporate person requires that corporations not only be able to incorporate but be discorporated after a given time. Any intellectual property held by a corporation becomes freely available when it goes under, either voluntarily or by acts of law or by having a 'three strikes and you're out rule' mandating their end. Companies should only last a given period that is less than a person's life and can take up about three-quarters of the adult part of a person's life. Call that period about 40 years. And any incorporated organization coming through the regime change gets 5 years to settle their affairs so that they don't hang around to cause you trouble. Corporations should be able to transfer assets that are tangible, but their intellectual property and records belong to the public, so that prosecutors can go over them with a fine tooth comb and the public can benefit from the good works of the corporation. This applies to every incorporated, legal fiction entity. Including such things as charities, social organizations, political parties, and religious institutions. Really, that latter already has a lot of intellectual property held in common, but keeping the books secret is not being up front with everyone about how the institution works.

Patents and copyright generally serve a purpose for 12 years for a good return on investment. After that it is just companies looking to stonewall a market niche. That is corrupting to the political system which must provide that legal basis for it. Make that a Hammurabi style law.

Everyone will believe you are a liar: that is a trait of dictators, after all. You will lie about your personal life and the activities of your secret police as the former is personal and the latter temporarily expedient. When you tell the truth about what your legislative agenda and government programs are, everyone will believe you are lying. You aren't. Do let your opponents rip into everything, talk it over, and figure out how you are trying to game the system. When they want simple, easy to understand methodology incorporated to end corrupting practices, take them up on it. Apply it to the legislative and judicial branches as well. The entire government, from top to bottom, needs such input. You will get a much tighter system for the input and your opposition will have closed down vital blind spots you have missed in the way of corruption. Thank them, publicly. They will hate that you took their ideas at face value and want them implemented. They will believe it is a trap. It isn't. Wash, rinse and repeat as necessary. You are not playing mind games with your opposition: they are doing it to themselves and you are making something much better due to their paranoia. Who said there wasn't some fun to be had on the normalizing end of things?

Set a date, for yourself, to step down from power. Concentrate your transition to normality agenda and simple codified system of limited government to be on a path so that when you do step down, you won't be destabilizing the system, again. Here is the deal, unless you just truly lust for power and are willing to let that consume you and make things worse for everyone around you, then you must leave ASAP to stay alive. That addiction to power is one that will corrupt you, and yet your agenda is to change the course of your life and the nation for the better by working with the tide of human affairs and not against it. Isn't it? The narcissists and incapable of yore wound up in disdain throughout history: Nero, Caligula, Ibrahim I, Louis XVI, King John of England, Ramses XI, Samsu-iluna (Hammurabi's son), Napoleon, Hitler... and the lesser know tin-pot dictators aren't even remembered outside their footnotes in the history books and they all lived in a time when controlling the 'message' was actually easy to do and few knew enough to actually question them or knew they would have a short life-span if they did. The better known ones are those who really had a great start in life, the best of educations, often the highest of motives, and then couldn't figure out that what they were spewing was tripe that didn't work. A Napoleon who worked his way up through the ranks we can somewhat admire, but his fascination with power puts him in a position of losing touch with the very ability to know society that got him to that point. Hitler gets tons of books written about his charisma, wide-spread appeal and how he utilized PR to his own benefit... and believed his own PR at least to a point. So did Stalin and Mao, although these latter had the benefit of still having a massive part of society being illiterate and it is generally easier to mislead the illiterate than the literate. Pol Pot knew that and killed editors, journalists, authors, educators and then started in on anyone who 'looked' smart or was just better looking than he was and while that stopped the immediate reports from coming out, the tens of millions dead could not be papered over.

Do you want a chapter or two written about you in 1,000 years that you actually had the courage to face human affairs and mold them to your will? Or a sentence that you were yet another clueless, power hungry person who let the lust for power consume him? Remember that if you start killing the literate you will end up killing those with glasses just on general principles, and that isn't wise at all. Are you strong enough of will to see your role in the way the world is going and have it help you to actually be enlightened enough to know a good education in no way makes you a better person? Or that you, basically, were too weak to figure out what your actual position is in history by being concerned with only your petty needs or ideology, or both? That is a history in which you didn't believe that the older orders are dying out, and yet you can see that they are in world affairs. Even if the retrograde religions and political crony systems that look like religions succeed, they will not be successful in bringing the entire planet down to where it was after the last great civilizations collapsed: the next Dark Age will be a strange, all digital one in which humanity doesn't go into a preliterate era again. Nor will they be molding humanity to their will, as the human will has been reshaping politics and religion for centuries and will continue to do so no matter who tries to turn back the clock to the 8th century or the 19th or even the late 20th. This is a life and death proposition for you, and understanding it will determine your lifespan and you ignore it at your peril. You will determine your legacy by what you do, how you do it and staying alive long enough to get it done and then leave as it is a job that is finished.

Let the next guy have the headaches.

He will curse you, as will all of your successors will for making such a hard job look easy. Yet it was far, far harder than anything they will ever have to face.

22 March 2011

War the right way and wrong way

Remember how the Left was in an uproar about the 'illegal' war in Iraq?  You know the one with multiple UN Security Council sanctions behind it?  The one with the finding of two Congresses that, in the first instance, Iraq wasn't living up to its cease-fire and Saddam had to go, back in 1999, and the second one in 2002 Congressional Authorization for the Use of Force?  And then 7 months of trying to talk Saddam down as we built up our forces?  And don't forget the previous authorization under George HW Bush to go against Iraq, which only got us to a cease-fire that Saddam wouldn't hold to, thus making him untrustworthy in the extreme.  Remember all of that?

No Blood For Oil was the chant?  That, BTW, is known as the Carter Doctrine - Blood for Oil - although fancier 'interests of the US' was used to equivocate about it.

You may not have liked the war against Iraq, but you can't complain about its 'legality' and, no, no one knew the actual status of Saddam's WMD programs.  Not even his top generals.  There is reason to think that even Saddam, himself, may not have kept track of what was going on and how some shells might have gotten misplaced in the inspection shell game that went on.  Mind you there were still poison gas bombs, facilities to produce more with precursor chemicals, yellowcake and the also prohibited SCUD missiles in Iraq, which the cease-fire required Saddam to also dispose of completely.  Lock, stock and barrel - all of it.

Remember the frothing at the mouth about going after an 'innocent' Saddam and how he really, and for true, didn't do a thing to the US?  Save take prisoners he wouldn't then release during the First Gulf War, of course.  Aid members of HAMAS in counterfeiting technology that would then find its way to FARC.  And a few of the guys captured in the First WTC attack also had passports that originated in Iraq.  Then there were the training facilities in Iraq to help terrorist groups out on hijackings and such. Oh, and some of the chemical weapons manuals found in Afghanistan in the hands of al Qaeda before the CAUF?  Yeah, those came from Iraq.  Primers on how to make and test batches of chemical weapons.  Dogs and other animals were used as test subjects, and possibly a spy or three or suspected one along the way by al Qaeda.

I know, the Left has memory blockage problems.

Hysterical amnesia.

Now President Obama has decided on another of the Carter Doctrines for his general foreign policy: dithering.  That is voting 'Present' when world affairs happen.  The other term for this is: 'Isolationist'.  Or, in this case, it is more: 'Nothing interrupts having a round of golf or vacation'.  The term 'dithering' is being kind.

Egypt sees its tyrant losing his grip on power and it is all smiles from Obama.

The previous Tunisia may have gotten a kind word or two.

About Morocco we haven't heard him say a damned thing.

Nor Jordan.

Nor Yemen.

Nor KSA.

Nor Bahrain.

Nor Kuwait.

Nor Syria.

And marchers in Iran, still looking for a smidgen of support from the US under Obama?  They are STILL waiting.

Hell, China has cracked down on freedom and democracy protesters, and those words were disallowed to even be in their spell checkers and dictionaries.  Not a word.  Zilch.

Japan has a major earthquake and tsunami, and Obama has some kind words... right before his round of golf.

Gotta get that golf handicap down!

Libya starts to go under with unrest, rebels on the march, He Who's Name Can't Be Spelled reeling and Obama is Johnny-on-the-spot with 'Kaddafi must go' or words to that effect.  He then implements the Carter Doctrine of 'dither'.  Q'ad'afi then pays off bunches of mercenaries and thugs, orders his air force to deal with the threat and to retake most of the country.  The rebels, they don't gots air power, nor much in the way of armor, so guys in trucks with heavy machineguns (also known as 'Technicals') are wonderful against tribesmen in the desert, not so hot against tanks really much of anywhere.

A week later, with the rebels reeling and Gad'dafi's forces, such as they are, on the march and re-taking most of the country, Obama finally comes out and says that 'he can't stand idly by to let this happen'... while he was standing idly by to let this happen.  He wants everyone else to do the heavy lifting for him to get a foreign policy together on this: the UN, Europe, Arab League, Hillary Clinton, that guy in the green uniform wearing a salad.  Really, put it together and he might be able to think about if he supports it.  A hastily convened UN Security Council more of less sanctions a No Fly Zone, and France and Great Britain rush in and the US is there to help along with lots of missile and air craft.  The Arab League?  They have lots and lots of aircraft and missiles and talked big leading up to this... apparently they want Qedifi out, but they reserve their planes, missiles, bombs, and really all of their military machines to do other things.

Well, looking at the list of uprisings, who can blame them, right?

Why, any one of them might be the next in line to be in the Unspellable's position.  Like maybe tomorrow the way things are going.

So with that all done the President jets off for his vacation in lovely Rio, where the poverty level is at 20% and the crony oil company pays off its financiers very nicely, indeed.  The one thing the President forgot to do?  Consult with Congress.

Now many pixels and ink have been spilled on this topic, so I will cut to the chase.

Can the President order this action?

Yes, if it is in the clear and obvious best interests of the United States or Libya is a direct threat to the US.  That is via the Law of Nations, boiled down from thousands of words to a sentence.

So is getting rid of Kadaffy in our best interests?  Be nice if the President said it was, right?  Got lots of words about how the civilian population has to be 'protected' and such, little about why this is necessary for the best interests of the US.

But didn't Libya attack us in Berlin, on the Pan Am 103 bombing and elsewhere, like training fighters to go into Iraq?

You betchya!

Nice if the President cited those, but he didn't.  He chose to vote 'Present' on rationale.

Thus we have the President unable to make clear that getting rid of Gaduffai is in the best interests of the US or that he is a clear and present danger to the US, or that he has taken actions in the past that can only be seen as giving him a clear and present danger status due to unrest in the region and his ability to spread it against US allies.

Of course he could have just consulted with Congress.  That would have been dead easy, but get in the way of his trip to Rio.  Instead he mailed that home, today.

This is the wrong way to do things as it leaves you without a leg to stand on at any turn, no clear and easy to state rationale for what you are doing, and seems pretty petty, given how he didn't really say much of anything about Libya in the run-up to the election or even after it.

Is there a way to have done this 'right' so as to get lots of military capability to help the 'rebels', or at least oppose Qadifi?

Yes, there is.

The President is the Head of State, the guy who makes foreign policy.  You know who we recognize and deal with, and then send Ambassadors and such abroad to keep tabs on things?  That is his power, also, under the Constitution.  His power of the Commander of the Armies and the Navies also gets him the ability to say who is a threat to the US and what kind of threat they are.  That is a potent piece of brew, right there!

So lets take the route of seeing what the rationale would be for going after Gaadaffi using the foreign policy side, before hitting up the military.  What could a President, any President, do?  Well, not recognize the current regime in Libya as a legitimate government.  You can do that as a President, and then take the shit-storm that follows as people realize you are actually serious about this.  If you didn't like that you could say that during this period of unrest there is no 'legitimate' government of Libya in the eyes of the US.  Still nasty, but understandable.  If the rebels were serious about a governing constitution, and presented it to the world, then the President could immediately switch over and say that THIS rebel government is the legitimate government of Libya.

Those are all painful and would really be nice to have some backing for them, no?

To get backing you can then utilize the Commander of the Armies and the Navies, particularly the Admiralty portion of the latter.  The Admiralty portion is that with the oversight on declaring who is and is not a legitimate fighter abroad with respect to the Laws of War.  Normally applied to the Sea, Congress has extended the Sea Powers to the airspace of the planet and down to the core of it, too.  By that any aircraft registered in the US is, while in the air, sovereign US territory.

So with the Berlin Disco Bombing we can cite Libya as using illegitimate war tactics without declaring war against the military of a sovereign Nation.  A big 'no-no' in the world.  It starts to make you look illegitimate.  Ask Saddam about where that gets you.

Next is the Pan Am 103 bombing which is not just an act of terrorism, but one on our sovereign territory while transiting airspace legally and giving no affront to any Nation, nor being a military vehicle of any sort.  It is an attack on our civilian air cargo and passenger service while going about its legal, commercial affairs.  There is a word for those who attack unarmed, legal, commercial vessels while transiting air or sea and they are not a military vessel of any sort: Pirates.

Just as in the days of Barbary, President Obama could cite the government of Libya as being headed by a Pirate and having Piratical ends so as to enforce the dictates of its leader at home and abroad, and that leader uses no distinctions of warfare or, indeed, any civilized code, to do so.  As this is a threat to the order of Nation States, Libya would then be a host to Pirates and be seen as a foe of all Nations who may then dispose with the supporters of the regime as they see fit wherever they are.

You see in the back of their heads, those diplomats who left the foreign service of Libya overseas have a great motivation to do so: they remember history of the Barbary States, and it wasn't a sweet or nice one.  Base survival motivates one to act in a civilized manner and that is to be applauded, while staying in the sway of a Pirate and madman will get you 230 grains of lead going at just under 960 ft/sec to the cranium.  Or a noose.  Traditions vary.

At that point the President could have gone on vacation and now be informing Congress that he really needs some folks armed up to go after Libyan assets and could they draw up some Letters to do so?  This would be drawing the clear and illuminating line of civilized behavior on the map and saying that if you don't respect other Nations and utilize terrorists, pirates, or similar sorts against other Nations without declaring war on them, then you are no longer a legitimate government.

The problem with doing it the right way?

The list of Nations that would then have to be approached like this is unappetizing and includes every terror attack helped, backed or hosted by a foreign power against the US.  Iran and Syria come to mind.  Cuba for training folks like the Weathermen who, themselves, would fit into the 'Pirate' category as having made illegal war on the US and even profiting from it.  Venezuela for hosting FARC which has tried to assassinate at least one US President, that being Clinton in 2000 on a State visit to Colombia.

The fact that the US has done so with other Nations, particularly in the Cold War, also makes the US liable for this sort of thing from other Nations.  Of course we could also use our foreign policy system to apologize... a venue open to Libya, but the apology must be accepted for that to work. 

See how that works? 


Order amongst Nations and forgiveness, but not forgetting?

This actually works rather well.  It is when you start to put in 'humanitarian' and other squishy things that you don't wind up with good policy nor good ends.  The Muslim world never thanked the US for its intervention in Kosovo, and would have damned us if we didn't.  In Somalia we tried to help, got soldiers killed and left, thus becoming 'the weak horse'.  In Rwanda it was the UN that ran... the US didn't really have anyone there, to speak of.  Ivory Coast? Liberia?  Niger? The Congo? Burma? 

Do we really want to be on the hook for all the world's problems and blamed when we can't find a solution to them?  If there were a solution, I mean something that everyone liked, then wouldn't the locals have already don it?  And if there isn't, then what makes us so sure we know what the 'right' solution is to a local problem?  Yes humanitarian disasters are horrible as they are brought about by the hand of man as opposed to, say, a subduction fault zone or volcano.  That doesn't mean that a stronger power can make it better.  Intervention is just another word for meddling, and if our local establishment can figure out that we need such things as coal, oil and natural gas, then how can we expect any President to figure out a multi-ethnic, multi-tribal, multi-faction fight that has been going on for generations in fits and starts?

That is why we encouraged Iraqis to make a government that represents everyone: it is better to go via the ballot box than the rebellion as it usually costs less in money and blood.


Say if the President had simply said that we no longer recognize the Unspellable's government as legitimate and declared him to be the head of a Piratical Cabal, well that would be fine and dandy!

Meddling in an affair that we won't even recognize the rebels as being the government of a place and supporting them when they can't even figure out what they are fighting for?  Yes, all very well and good to be against a pretty brutal dictator exploiting his people and all, but what do the rebels stand for?  Would backing them be just another long-term losing proposition on the road to yet another despotic regime? 

Makes you wish they had gotten that constitution thingy together, huh?  Know what they are fighting for and all that.

So I do agree the Unspellable must go... I disagree with how it is done and the lack of framework and context for it.  And if you aren't going to declare a government to be illegitimate and without basis for being dealt with, null and void in all respects, then you do have to consult Congress beforehand as you are treating it as a real government.

You don't get to vote 'Present' on that.

20 March 2011

What is a Nation State?

The following is cross-posted from The Jacksonian Party.

The following is an opinion piece by The Jacksonian Party.

This is pretty simple, no?  Everyone has a good idea of what a Nation looks like, in form, even when that form varies from the early City States to the modern Nation State, we can definitely put our fingers on a few salient points that define Nations.

First off is that they have a declared government.  This can be anything from a Warlord putting his cohorts in place with an iron fist all the way to people on a small speck of land banding together to use a representative democracy to run a republic.  Either way a known set of people who work within a confines of a geographic area, with a people in it and an orderly system of government are key points in the Nation State business.  The Nation has accountable actors who act in the name of the people of that territory.

Second is that many Nations are born in blood from previous regimes that did not reflect the will of the people or who were deposed by invading armies or from the turmoil of an upset order that fell apart.  Peaceful change is to be sought at every turn, but not every ruler or government is willing to recognize the will of the people to get rid of them.    Thus fighting usually starts before an actual new government can get in place.

There is a critical juncture between the First and the Second and that is the ability to get help from the outside if you are fighting to depose a government.

Note that governments are only imposed after being on the losing side of a war: the winning side gets to dictate terms.  Coming to power with no governmental structure means you have no orderly means of actually running the Nation, even temporarily, until a new government is set up.  That is why many of the mechanisms of the prior government live on for months or years after the defeat of the prior regime: they are necessary to keep things going.  Hated?  Most likely.  Necessary?  By and large, yes.

To take two examples:

- In the American Revolution the build up to 1776 via prior incidents put forward a group of representatives willing to stake a claim for a new government.  They declared independence and the very next thing they did (beyond circulating the declaration) was put a new government in place.  That was the Articles of Confederation, which was the interim government that allowed other governments to back the new government.  Thus Poland would send us our first Light Cavalry and France would later give us troops, arms and cash to help against the British.  All that time fighting was going on, but a recognized chain of command from the new government to Gen. Washington was established.  It didn't work that well, but it did work and the form of accountability was put in place.

- In Iraq after OIF the government of Iraq dissolved.  Not by order, that was the after-thought, but by the civil service leaving their places in government and leaving a mess behind.  The loss of control meant a loss of order and looting ensued, as well as a general uprising against the old regime.  There would be long, long months to getting a local interim government put in place to help settle things down and then the agenda to get a new constitution passed would involve more months of bloodshed as scores were settled and outsiders attempted to thwart the standing up of the new government.  That interim government was responsible for the obligations of goods and services, so it gained recognition outside of Iraq from Nations wanting to have commerce with Iraq and support it.  That has been a messy route, yes, but necessary as letting the locals control their own destiny after deposing a genocidal tyrant unable to stick to his war-time treaty was no longer acceptable.

Both instances have timing involved - in America the revolution had basically started before independence was declared, yet in Iraq the government was removed by it being attacked and then dissolving in its very offices when defenses broke down.  Getting an interim government up was critical to both Nations, and they were Nations as they were they were considered sovereigns either by declaration (in the US) or recent custom (in Iraq).

In general it is not wise to support any uprising, rebellion or set of actors looking to overthrow a regime that does NOT put down their system of government, who is accountable and the territory they will oversee with consent of the governed.  That is why the US needed a government to survive the early months of its war with the mother country, and why the insurgents in Iraq were seen as puppets of foreign powers: the accountability system is the 'sniff test' of a Nation.

If you don't have it, you reek of barbarism.

You, as an individual, may not like certain Nation's governments, but that is for the people in the Nation to work out, not for you to help 'decide' from the outside.  I don't like despots, tyrants, dictators, and warlords overmuch, but if the people they are over can't figure out how bad they are and get rid of them, then there is little that I can or should do for them from the outside.   Sympathize with their plight?  Yes.  Beg my government to intercede?  No.  Opposition is one thing, interceding where the locals can't buy a clue is something else, again.

That now brings up Egypt, Libya and other fun places with insurrections going on, like Tunisia and even China.  What should the US policy be?

Well, how about requiring the locals to get serious, first off?  Insurrection, rebellion, revolution are all parts of changing a government you don't like, but the ballot box should work as well.  If you don't have elections and the government will not recognize that the people are the sovereign actors of the Nation to create a Nation, then you get the bloodier, nastier way of doing things.  That is all understood.  So what, exactly, do these upstarts want to replace the old system with and what is the territory they will be held responsible for, and who is doing this stuff?

That gets to the crux of the matter, that junction between First and Second: if you don't know what you want or who is being trusted to run the show then why, exactly, should anyone on the outside recognize such a rebellion as in need of 'help'?  You may not like the dictator, despot, tyrant, regime, warlord, etc. in charge, but if those in opposition won't stand up for something other than being anti-regime, then you aren't likely to get a good outcome.  Quite the opposite as that is how such notorious regimes usually start: rebels without a clue beyond wanting power.

Thus in Egypt the people had a general uprising against the regime and it, finally, stepped down and handed running the show over to the military.  Now there are drafts for a new constitution coming about, with a more or less legitimate interim regime in place.  Its strange that those wanting the regime change couldn't say, exactly, what they wanted to replace it.  It is one thing to have a government deposed by outside forces who then get to figure out what to do and quite another when you take to the streets without a clue as to what you really want as a form of government.  That path to mob rule isn't pretty and usually lasts until a dictator or junta can kill its way to power and get some cronies to be strongmen for the new regime.  And if that starts to sound like the old regime... well... if you don't know what it is, exactly, you want then you are unlikely to get something to make you 'feel' better in this realm.

In Tunisia the dictator has fled, but what of the government?  It is in disrepute but a newer system hasn't really come about, yet.  For such a well educated people they should be able to figure out the cart - horse order of things.

Things are less well formed in: Yemen, KSA, Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan and Syria.

Iran has the Green Movement (not an environmental movement) but that seems stalled on the verge of doing things and its leaders are being rounded up by the thinning old regime.

China is cracking down and paying people to stop the insurrection's communications.  Good luck on that, I tellya.

Libya has the problem of rebels who were very successful and were even rumored to be putting a constitution together.  They really, and for true, should have done that.


It could be announced as part of foreign policy that the old regime was no longer recognized as sovereign and the new regime was.  Money, arms, supplies and all the rest of it could flow from Nations recognizing the new government and then blockade the old one.  What took months back in 1776 now takes minutes to hours.  Rebels with a constitution, putting on identifiers and generally having a recognized chain of command means they are serious about getting a new government in place, even on an interim basis, and can be supported.

They didn't do that.

We can't recognize them as a government as they aren't one.

See that part about what happens when you are clueless about what you want to do once you win after fighting?  That is where Libya is.  Egypt, at least, has a government that knows it is interim.  Libya has a government under the old regime, and the rebels are unable to figure out that they need a new form of legitimacy to get things rolling their way.

Rebels without a clue.

Putting the cart before the horse.

Helping the clueless when they demonstrate they are clueless usually doesn't end well for all concerned.

I don't like He Who's Name Can't Be Spelled Consistently.

I have no good feeling about the current rebels, at all.

Wanting to get rid of a tyrant is all well and good, but could we have the guarantee, in writing, that you actually do have an idea of what it is you want afterwards?  Otherwise this is just your standard tyrant swap during a coup.

Put up and demonstrate your morals and ethics, and your willingness to be held accountable.

Or don't.

The first gets you a new government, and that can have a bloody end, but at least you are willing to stick up for your fellow citizens and a better way of doing things.

The latter is tyranny for tyranny, despot for despot, and coup after coup.

Thus America's answer should be: put up a government, draw your line in the sand, be held accountable, put on uniforms and then we will think long and hard about supporting you as you are showing you are willing to do the hard work of creating a better government after the show is over.

That is, however, sane and rational.

I'm not expecting that any time soon, and we will rue the day we gave up being civilized for transient ends.