Saturday, February 26, 2011

UN Sanctions against Gaddafi ...

I am reminded that the conservative formula for sanctions against dictators is generally that the nastier the dictator, the more severe the sanctions should be. The liberal formula is the opposite.

I won't question these formulas, but I do get interested when the application changes. In this case, we have a situation where Gaddafi is under UN sanctions today that he wasn't under a few days ago. Gaddafi has been a dictator since 1969, so the change in the sanctions regime isn't based on the fact that he is a dictator. Ah, but now he is involved in violence someone will say. But wasn't he involved in terrorism before? And what respectable regime out there would not use violence to put down a rebellion? China? Russia? Canada? OK, we won't talk about the Canadians. Anyway, a key part of a dictatorship is the violence or threat of violence, so let's set aside any pretense that the change in sanctions is happening because of violence.

Before going further regarding the UN, I would also bring up Switzerland's practice of freezing assets of foreign leaders as soon as their citizens revolt. Is the issue that the assets represent ill-gotten gains? So the gains became ill-gotten due to a revolt? Or is there any chance that they were ill-gotten the day before the revolt? Given that there has been no trial of these leaders, how is it that they would consider that the gains are ill-gotten anyway? Are they going to freeze the assets of Chinese politicians every time there is a revolt in Tibet? Or Indian assets every time something happens in Kashmir?

The conclusion? If I simply look at the actions of the UN and Switzerland over the long term and ignore the rhetoric, it would be tempting to conclude that they were acting simply because they had decided that the dictators were going to be losers in the current round. I will leave that as a suggestion, since none of the given explanations seem remotely plausible and I am not supposed to judge. Are there other explanations for the UN's change?

Update: Just scooted over to The Economist and noted that they are thinking along the same patterns.

6 comments:

rummuser said...

You took the words right out of my mouth Looney. I salute you for that very incisive post. We are hypocrites when it comes to dictators.

Looney said...

Growing older, I have become a bit more tolerant towards policies that are formally hypocritical. I still have trouble with people pretending to be serious about the science of morals and ethics while deliberately being hypocrites!

Delirious said...

LOL love the cartoon! I think the freezing of assets is important because public money might have been secretly taken away and hidden in a foreign account.

Looney said...

Delirious, when do you suspect he might have started secretly taking money away and putting it in foreign accounts?

Delirious said...

lol good question. If it were me, I would do it at the first sign of disapproval.

Dee Ice Hole said...

Looney---I believe he started doing it the day he took over. Billions are tough to take at the last moment.