Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Coup d'etat: the unguided missile from within

Mr. Bottom Billion, Paul Collier, published an insightful op-ed last week lamenting the current politically-correct mindset that sees powerful, rich nations only bullying weaker, poorer ones. Yet the planet's major disaster states are ruled by isolated autocrats who are omnipotent on their own turf: Mugabe in Zimbabwe, General Than Shwe in Burma. These leaders are far more powerful than any Western head of state; there is nothing weak about them.

Efforts to help the citizens of these countries are blocked by such leaders and their cronies, for whom their people are 'better dead than fed'. The only effective change agent in such situations are the national armies, with their capacity for a coup d'etat. Coups are historically common in such instances, but are like 'unguided missiles', Collier explains, because their outcomes are unpredictable. How then to help make coups 'smarter'?

His answer: "Rather than trying to freeze coups out of the international system, we should try to provide them with a guidance system. In contexts such as Zimbabwe and Burma, coups should be encouraged because they are likely to lead to improved governance. (It's hard to imagine things getting much worse.) The question then becomes how to provide encouragement for some potentially helpful coups while staying within the bounds of proper international conduct."

Read the whole piece here.

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