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The last few years have not been kind to autocrats. Once invincible giants have been felled by incurable diseases, subverted by imperialist machinations, or hounded out of office by hordes of uneducated peasants clamoring for highfalutin nonsense like basic human rights. The string of performances given by both aspiring megalomaniacs and seasoned despots has been dismal: Qadhafi made amateur mistakes, Mubarak got cocky, the Cubans botched Maduro, and just last week, Aliyev was revealed to be the winner of his country’s presidential contest a full day before voting began.
Of course, the news is not all glum — there have been some bright spots. Assad’s deft diplomatic stalling and Mugabe’s disciplined reign of terror come to mind; these two men have certainly fortified their credentials. But if Assad and Mugabe are senior officers in the A-club, Vladimir Putin is its secretary general. The man’s crackdown on internal dissent has been truly nonpareil. Buffeted by economic headwinds and besieged from all sides, Putin has managed to consolidate power.
Given the perilous conditions for autocracy everywhere, now might have been a propitious time to reiterate the time-worn precepts of authoritarianism. But instead of dusting off old, canonical guidebooks, it may be more instructive to review industry best practices, like a Corporate Executive Board for dictators. Based on AEI scholar Leon Aron’s recent (and rather more serious) analysis of Putin’s rule in Russia, herewith a list of “real-world” tips for orchestrating an authoritarian consolidation:
Once you’ve mastered these tactics, it’s a few short steps from autocracy to apotheosis. We’ll cover that in the next chapter.
Disclaimer: AEIdeas does not make any warranty, express or implied, for specific policy proposals, or assume liability for a severe backfire that could leave your opulent palace in ruins, your family name forever dishonored, and your country redolent of cordite and blood.
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