March 02, 2011

Robert Kaplan Discusses Concept of Virtuous Autocrat

Analysis is built on distinctions. And in these times of upheaval in the Arab world, distinctions are being lost. All autocrats are not bad, as some neoconservatives are proclaiming, and should not be overthrown. The moral differences between one dictator and another are as vast as those between dictators and democrats. There is such a thing as a benevolent dictator – and we should not turn our back on all those that remain.

Vision, perceived legitimacy, the existence of a social contract and the ability to make society more institutionally complex – and thus ready for more freedom – are the distinguishing characteristics of good dictators. Libya’s Muammer Gaddafi, for example, is not remotely in the same category as Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Sa’id, whose kingdom has seen violent youth demonstrations in recent days. Egypt’s former Brezhnevite dictator Hosni Mubarak should not be compared to Jordan’s energetic King Abdullah.

Read the full article at Financial Times.