If I were an autocrat…

I think we can all agree on what Hosni Mubarak should do, at least from an ethical perspective. Dictatorship fell out of favor (at least ostensibly) after the second world war, and while there are those who would probably prefer to see a stable, undemocratic Egypt (cough cough, United States), we at least don’t admit that in public.

Gineih for your thoughts?

The real question that I have is this: What would you do if you were Hosni Mubarak? Sure, you would like to think that you would pull a Spike Lee and do the right thing. You would like to think that you would step down, hand over power to a representative government, and allow Egypt to blossom into a truly democratic state.

If this is what you said, I gotta say you would make a horrible dictator. If I were a career counselor, I would steer you toward something a little less despotic and a tad more cooperative. People like you don’t stay in power for 30 years, that’s for sure. I know it’s not in you (at least I hope it is not) but now really try to think like a dictator. Channel your inner Qaddafi and Lukashenko. Now, if I were an autocrat and my people were pissed, here is what I would be thinking:

• My people are always pissed at me, what’s new?
• Oh, you mean they are really angry…Okay, what’s it about? Food prices? Well let’s just subsidize them like my pal King Abdullah just did in Jordan, that should do the trick.
• So it’s not just the high prices, or unemployment, or some American war… it’s about the fact that I have been in power for 30 years? hmmm

Here is where the dictator must make a critical decision. No despot is going to willingly make any sort of true concession on power, because if he/she did, well then she wouldn’t be a very good dictator, now would he/she? So these Caesars have to consider these four scenarios:

1. Crack down on protesters, break their spirit, and the whole thing blows over without me making any concessions: MAJOR VICTORY

Example: Iran, 2009

Khamenei and presidential pick, Ahmadinejad, didn't have to concede anything despite the massive protests following the 2009 elections

2. Crackdown on protesters, they continue and gain momentum, you lose ability to even make concessions, no time left to flee, you are caught and executed: VERY BAD

Example: Romania, 1989

This guy's demise is so infamous he has become the poster child for what happens when dictators underestimate the power of the public's fury

3. Make limited concessions, public is satisfied or at least quelled, and you get to stay in power: OKAY VICTORY

While he is still ranks high in world's worst dictators, his recent concessions to form a power-sharing government with opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, bought him a few more years but cost him a bit in terms of maintaining total control of the country.

4. Make concessions, public demands more, you stay in power with checked authority or get booted out because it’s too darn late: PRETTY BAD, BUT BETTER THAN OPTION 2

Example: Tunisia, 2011

Ben Ali made the huge concession of promising not to run in the next election, but at that point, it was too late

It’s a game of roulette, and as Nicolae can tell you, it can have nasty consequences. So the question we have to ask ourselves is this: Does Hosni feel lucky? Only the future will tell if this shrewd pharaoh will continue to outwit his opponents, or if his luck has run out.

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