Events

Book Launch--Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World's Last Dictators by 2025

October 22, 2003 // 12:00am

In Breaking the Real Axis of Evil: How to Oust the World's Last Dictators by 2025, Ambassador Mark Palmer calls for a radical new foreign policy that directly seeks to replace the remaining 43 dictatorships with democracies by 2025. He argues that the fundamental geopolitical changes of the last twenty years resulted from the relatively peaceful emergence of non-dictatorial regimes in Eastern Europe and in part of the former Soviet Union, despite improved weaponry and military strategies. Spreading democracy and strengthening human rights will be integral to improving national security and finding economic opportunities in the 21st century.

Amb. Palmer described dictatorships as fragile, weak, and entirely dependant on the willingness of their populations to tolerate them, despite their appearance of strength and impenetrability. Organizing the supporters of democracy in these countries is therefore the primary objective for overcoming their oppressive governments. The international community must also push for the peaceful overthrow of these regimes by formally making dictatorship a crime against humanity and a violation of international law. In addition, new diplomatic budget priorities must continue programs such as student and scholar exchanges while emphasizing newer tools such as television and radio broadcasting. He also called for the establishment of international organizations that would directly push for systematic political reforms in the same way that the World Bank and the IMF promoted economic change and improvement.

Peter Ackerman chairs the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, an organization created to support and train indigenous groups without political or military resources to peacefully combat political oppression. He stressed the need to encourage democratic supporters to organize their resistance and civil disobedience into an overall strategy for nonviolent conflict, defined as a series of tactics that when strategically used, effectively resists the power and influence of dictators. He also reminded the audience of how the Indian independence movement, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, and the fall of Milosevic, among many others, were peacefully organized by civilians who eroded "the pillars a tyrant absolutely must have to stay in power."

Francis Fukuyama praised Amb. Palmer's goals and prescriptions for change. He felt that more international fora would improve the international community's ability to effectively deal with dictatorship, nation building, and other global sociopolitical problems.

Fukuyama also defined current U.S. foreign policy as the ongoing war on terrorism but argued that this strategy leaves the United States too dependent upon other countries, regardless of the nature of their governments. This policy is particularly unwieldy when seen in the context of the Middle East, where anti-Americanism has reached a fever pitch as conflicts continue unabated. Even as the United States attempts to build democracy in Iraq and rhetorically, in much of the Middle East, skeptics will point to the ongoing support of the oppressive regimes in Egypt and Saudi Arabia as evidence of an opportunistic U.S. policy.

Responding to the likelihood that the remaining dictatorships might be eliminated by 2025, Fukuyama commented instead on the fragility of recently democratized countries. Several Latin American governments, while democratic, remain deficient in making other structural changes such as strengthening legal systems. The last century has shown that while any country might transition from a dictatorship to a democracy, social and economic improvements and policies must firmly take root before these countries become stable and strong democracies.

Experts & Staff

  • Christian F. Ostermann // Director, History and Public Policy Program; Global Europe; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project
  • Emily R. Buss // Program Assistant

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