Saturday, December 7, 2013

Why are despots and tyrants not afraid to mingle with their own people?

The picture of Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani out for a hike, and the story behind it, reminds the casual western reader that our enemies have a different sort of relationship to their people than what we have here.

When is the last time an American president casually mingled with fellow hikers on an impromptu excursion into the hills? Not in living memory. Even the most mundane foray into the public sphere by Obama, or Bush or Clinton before him, is a massive security operation.

What's different about the "despots" is that they don't appear to be afraid of their people, whereas in America, the leaders are absolutely paranoid of unscripted spontaneous interactions with citizens.

Just before Saddam went to ground after the US invasion he was seen addressing a cheering and heavily armed mob. He was standing on the roof of a car as he gave them a pep talk. No American president would take that kind of chance.

Same with Gaddafi.  Sure there were people in Libya who didn't like him, but were it not for NATO air power those people would have held their tongues and held their fire indefinitely. The Libyans were a cultured, well educated, well informed people. By and large they knew things could be a lot worse, as subsequent events have shown.

So perhaps the trope of the "hated tyrant" is just that; a propaganda construct designed to placate the few who might ask questions here in our democratic utopias.

Things are not what they seem...

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