TNR’s Despots of the Year

The New Republic Online:

Since inaugurating the “Today in Despotism” series earlier this year, TNR Online has chronicled the activities of a number of strongmen. Some are old, some are young; some are religious, some are atheist; some are called “Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya”; others are called “Supreme Commander of the Korean People’s Army, General Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, and Chairman of the National Defense Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.” But while countries around the world may have differences, the hopes and dreams of their despotic rulers are shared. It’s why Libya celebrates the anniversary of a book by Muammar Qaddafi and North Korea celebrates the anniversary of a book by Kim Jong Il. And so TNR Online is issuing a Despot of the Year Award in an attempt to give a proper nod to outstanding despotic achievements. Ideally, this award would merely reflect the popular will of the rulers’ subjects, but, as Donald Rumsfeld once pointed out in a moment of reflection, sometimes that’s hard to figure out. “It’s awfully hard to know,” he said. “In fact, it’s impossible to know unless one just speculates. I don’t know how many people who live in an exceedingly repressive regime actually like it.”

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