The Duck of Minerva

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Dictators on Parade


February 11, 2007

Parade Magazine–that little thing in your Sunday paper with all the advertisements from Best Buy and office Depot–has one article each year that I think is completely brilliant: Who is the World’s Worst Dictator?

Its such a simple thing, yet such a powerful statement, I’m surprised more people don’t do it. Yet I love that its in Parade magazine–something with such mass circulation in the Sunday paper that people normally look to for celebrity interviews and such. One week a year, they lay out the “bad people” in the world and call American’s attention to the other ‘evil-doers’ in the world outside of the war on terrorism.

This year’s list:

1) for the third year in a row topping the list, its Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, in power since 1989. Bashir earned and keeps his ranking because of Darfur.

This is why I love this article– it reminds a large number of people that there are international issues and leaders worthy of US attention and action. Darfur lingers on the edge of the current USFP agenda, crowded out by items such as Iraq and terrorism. I’m not saying that these things aren’t important, but rather, the point is, the worst person in the world (as Olberman might say) is not associated with either issue. There are other things out there that demand attention.

2) Kim Jong Il, everyone’s favorite lonely dictator, trying hard to recapture his number 1 ranking he last held in 2004.

3) Sayyid Ali KhamEnei of Iran. Key educational point here– its not Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president, but the Supreme Leader, the head of the religious clerics who control Iran who really calls the shots.

4) Hu Jintao, China

5) King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia

Ahhh, now it gets complicated. Key American Frenemies. We need them, we’re good friends with them, but Parade reminds us that we’re not always friends with the world’s best people.

Check out the rest of the top 20.

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Dr. Peter Howard focuses on US foreign policy and international security. He studies how the implementation of foreign policy programs produces rule-based regional security regimes, conducting research in Estonia on NATO Expansion and US Military Exchange programs and South Korea on nuclear negotiations with North Korea.