Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

I Don't Understand Dictators

  1. Apr 14, 2003 #1
    Give me almost absolute power along the lines of Saddam Hussein and it would interest me very little to collect fast cars, scantily clad mistresses, pistols, palaces and endless statues of myself.

    If you are the dictator of a country, what prevents you from being at a benign tyrant interested in building schools and universities, sharing the wealth of the nation so that there's no grinding poverty, ending torture and encouarging tolerance and compassion?

    Why is there this need to plunder the country, turn oneself into a demi-god and delight in torturing one's own citizens?

    Something else which puzzles me is that these folks secretly love the things they despise in public. Saddam and his sons adored western movies, booze, pornogaphy, etc, etc, and yet it was a crime for other citizens to be in possession of this stuff.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 14, 2003 #2


    User Avatar

    Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely...

    Most dictators in fact do go through a stage. It's need to cement their power. Consider Castro etc. Various kings also managed it. And it is still doubtful wether we are seeing the full unbiased image of these dictators. The truth usually only comes out decades later...

    Wrong country. You are thinking of the extreme islamicist government of Iran. Iraq was pretty tolerant of these things, if you stay out of the government's way...
  4. Apr 14, 2003 #3
    I am aware of the more extreme and religious anti-westernism of Iran and the Islamic fundamentalists. I even know that Iraq was secular and that Saddam might not have believed in god at all (he did when it suited his ends).

    However, anti-Americanism became a strong feature of Baath culture and Iraqis officially were not openly supposed to like western culture. The leaders, of course, loved all things western, its films, its products, its music, etc. The hypocrisy is amusing.
  5. Apr 14, 2003 #4
    'Tis called geopolitics. What the rulers of a country actually think, and their real reasons for doing something internationally, are rarely the reasons or views they claim. It goes back to this guy called Machiavelli... :) well further in actuality.
  6. Apr 14, 2003 #5
    Because at some point, your people become free and happy, start becoming protective of their own interests, and the CIA engineers a coup.
  7. Apr 15, 2003 #6


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I think you may have something with that second part, FZ+. Its not that power corrupts, its that corrupt people are able to gain power. Saddam (and in the tradition of Machiavelli, most dictators) was corrupt LONG before he ever became dictator.
  8. Apr 15, 2003 #7
    saddam hussein is not of the same faith as the vast majority of iraqis, the population of iraq, to saddam, consists of infidels, why would he ever want to be a benevolent dictator then?
  9. Apr 15, 2003 #8
    I don't think anyone needs to hate people of a slightly different faith or those from a different ethnic group. Even a dictator should have some level of compassion and feeling of humanity. Hussein treated his opponents as though they were subhuman. A benign dicator would at least treat all citizens equally. Have their been no reasonably benign, enlightened dictators in the world?
  10. Apr 15, 2003 #9


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    it is politics

    Exchange of gifts, that is all.

    A tipycal aspect of a client/patron scheme is this kind of gifts; if you are playing the patron game, you are forced to collect a lot of absurd things. Just as any family in Xmas.
  11. Apr 15, 2003 #10
    Look, America can't even get a grip on respecting religious freedom!
  12. Apr 15, 2003 #11
    America's greatest intolerance is towards those who don't believe. I am so tired of having to join hands, say Grace and thank god for this and that when I don't even believe in the creature.
  13. Apr 21, 2003 #12
    Why? It is because once you become I totalitarian ruler you have absolute power, however this also means that your subjects will have no power. Unfortunately if you start building schools ,people will start thinking. Giving out wealth means that people will not be hungry. Thus they will start demanding things. Once you start giving them a little freedom they will want more and more. This is why dictators want to keep their people on a shortleesh , if they are hungry and dumb , there is no way for them to resist. Many dictators such as Saddam probably have learned about the mistake of tasar Alexander II of Russia , the only tsar who tried to make reforms for the peasants , and was assassinated.

    It is not a need to torture and portraying one self as a God , it is the need to control your people and keep things under control .. for your own safety.

    "It is better to be feared than loved" --- The Prince by Machiavelli.
  14. Apr 22, 2003 #13
    Actually, being an Iraqi under Saddam, so long as you were in the Baath party would not have been so bad. As I understand, there was a thriving 'middle class' of Baath party aparatchiks. To be a university teacher, a cop, or in the army, you joined the Baath party.

    Found this during a search for Machiavelli, because I didn't get what you were talking about...
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2003
  15. Apr 22, 2003 #14
    From what I see there are several main goals that different types of leaders try to achieve in order to maintain order and security.

    Dictators/Tyrants goals are to keep their people dumb and hungry. So long as the majority of their subjects are dumb and hungry there is little chance that they will revolt so long as the tyrant is strong and powerful.

    "Enlightened"/ Enlightened despots goals are to keep their people happy and full. As long as the people stomachs are full and they are happy with their lives , there will be little chance that there will be revolts. When people are living wealthy and happy lives they will tend to have the tendancy to be conservatives and will reject change.

    This is why there wasn't communist revolution in the United State , even though Karl Marx predicted that the US would be one of the first country in the world to have a communist revolution because people were suffering. He said that these "prolitariates" or class consious workers would revolt against the government and the upper classes. However what he didn't put into consideration was that there would be reforms such as allowing Labor Union that would defuse these revolutions. Not only that the reforms eventually built up a nation where the majority is the middle class. Thus , in free states or nation where people are prosperous and happy there would be no rebellions. However to my observations , the US is making too many laws that are detrimental to the middle class and is shrinking the middle class in the country. I fear that if the US continues this trend the middle class will eventually collapse and so will the country... but that's another topic.

    I am not sure if you're referring to me or not , but "It is better to be fear than loved" was the main idea of Machiavelli's book the Prince it which he believed that rulers should be ruthless rather than peace loving. He said that as long as the people fear you they will not be defiant. And if they aren't afraid of you , they will walk all over you.
  16. Apr 23, 2003 #15
    Heh, yeah I read about 5 chapters from "the Prince" last night, very interesting, highly practical how to guide for conquering principalities. Wistfully I thought of Rumsfeld. BTW, Rumsfeld=german name eh?
  17. Apr 23, 2003 #16


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Funny how it becomes so easy to portray Saddam as the evil incarnate.

    Before sanctions were imposed, Iraq was actually doing quite well. It even won a UNESCO award for best education. Health care was good too. Industry was also performing decently.

    I dont deny that Saddam has commited some atrocities but which dictator hasn't ? Or for that matter, which democracy hasn't ? You must have heard the horror stories from CIA, compares with the worst atrocities commited. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ... just because it was done in the guise of war, doesn't make it any less atrocious !

    The parameers for judging a ruler should be multiple. And social indicators like education and healthcare are far more important IMO.

    - S.
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2003
  18. Apr 23, 2003 #17
    Education and health care are certainly two factors to consider while assessing the palatability of dictators. But it is reasonable to work torture, gassing and repression into the equation. Saddam was more skilled than most at those activities and he was at it long before America made him an enemy.

    As the citizen of a country I might well value being taught to read and write to university level, but I would not particularly like having to join a party into to climb the career ladder and nor would I be overly keen on the idea of torture for daring to express opposition to the regime.

    One cannot let a dictator off the hook simply because he does what all dictators do while being better at teaching the populace to read and write and being clever at duping the UN.

    America picks its fights, and the way it chooses to fight, out of a mixture of idealism (often misguided) and self-interest. Saddam was not the first in line, that honor was Afghanistan's. And I prefer the new policy of toppling dictators to the old one of supporting fascists in Latin America.
  19. Apr 23, 2003 #18

    You're right even democracy has commited atrocities , let's face it no single type of government on this earth is perfect. It is after all , run by human beings.

    However, at least with a democracy others are able to at least correct the mistake that were made, and that those who purposely commit these actions don't stay in power forever. Unfortunately what I fear is that Oligarchy (although not as bad as a dictatorship) might take place in a republic.
  20. Apr 23, 2003 #19


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    That works for me. Lets start with literacy...
  21. Apr 24, 2003 #20


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Chuckle chuckle ... America made him an enemy when he linked his oil prices to the Euro. Thats when he changed overnight from being a good man to a bad man.
    Well, if my number one position in the world economy was being threatened, I might go to war too. But I wont justify it with self-righteous crap.

    If we're looking at torture, gassing and repression, lets first look at the atrocities commited by the US, under the guise of the CIA, shall we ?? And the atrocities commited in Nam. The bombing of 2 whole cities ...
    and then you can start waxing sanctimonious !

    - S.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?

Similar Discussions: I Don't Understand Dictators
  1. Delta dictator (Replies: 1)