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Imran Garda Headshot

Dictator's Survival Manual

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Dear Strongmen,

My esteemed readers. The past year and a half has been a testing one for strongmen such as yourselves all across the planet. From Cote d'Ivoire to Egypt, Yemen to Tunis, you have seen close friends and colleagues, your mentors and proteges fall by the wayside as a vicious wave of subversion has threatened your very survival. We have seen deep, undeserved gashes speared into families and institutions that only want what is best for their countries. It pains me to see you not at the pinnacle of your collective powers in these times of uncertainty. Some of you have already taken steps to avoid the fate of your brethren and have readjusted your alliances in this increasingly multipolar world, while others among you have understandably prepared the bunkers of safety for you and your loved ones, while taking necessary measures to transfer what remains of your countries' finances to Swiss Bank accounts. I'm here to tell you, all is not lost.

There is still time to be seen as a good guy, especially by those that matter. This is by no means comprehensive, but merely a humble attempt at a spark of light in an age of darkness. This is not about democracy or dictatorship, ideology or politics; no, my dear friends, we have known each for far too long to dwell on such trivialities -- this is merely a few short, pertinent points, from a concerned friend, that will have you back in the fold of the International Community in no time. Now listen up:

1. Never issue threats. If you must, always say, "all options are on the table," even if you plan Genocide. Never, never say things like, "They must be wiped off the map," even if you're only fantasizing about regime change.

2. No building statues of yourself -- I know it's hard to resist, but leave that to the next generation. By all means, use your oil wealth for towers that Tom Cruise can cling to, that's fine.

3. No costumes. This isn't Mardi Gras. Gaddafi was the last of the costume-wearers; they're over. Wear a suit and tie. And shave, for heaven's sake.

4 (a). Don't socialize or nationalize anything. Open your markets, even if people are starving.

4 (b). To find out how, consult the IMF and World Bank. Just tell them you believe in the free market, they won't ask too many questions, trust me.

5. Steer clear of round numbers when it comes to election time. For those of you who don't have elections, skip to point 6.

Our old friend Hosni Mubarak used to like to get a flat 80 percent or 90 percent of the vote.
100 percent was Saddam Hussein's figure of choice -- except for that one year when he went for an extra percent and won 101 -- gutsy. But I digress -- Yemen's new leader Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi got a smart 99.8 percent in the recent presidential vote; still arguably a little too round for some. But 99.76 percent, now that was perfect. That's what Vladimir Putin got in Chechnya. It's a nice odd mathy numbery fractiony figure. It looks good. So, remember, to avoid a second round, don't choose a number that's round.

6 (a). Just because leveling whole cities worked for your dad, doesn't mean it'll work for you.

6 (b). If you are going to spend years studying something in the West killing time (no pun intended) before you take over from your dad, let it be something less lame than ophthalmology. It looks bad on the resume. Go to the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst instead. If it's too late for that, use this advice for your children.

7. Never call them "protesters." But beware, call them "terrorists" and people might suspect you're exaggerating. Last year David Cameron showed how useful the term "looters" can be. Use "looters." If you've already killed a few by now, call them "al Qaeda."

8. Fighter pilots get cold feet. Use drones. There's an old saying where I come from, "let he who is without sin cast the first drone."

9. If you run an oil- and gas-rich Central Asian nation where arbitrary arrests, religious persecution and torture are your thing (who doesn't love a little waterboarding?), make sure your name and the name of your country is difficult for U.S. politicians to pronounce. Make them think you have extra syllables in there too. Uzbeki-beki-bekistan will work just fine. They won't bother you.

10. Don't let them find mass graves. You won't believe how much this irks me. You're in charge of big countries people, come on. Spread the bodies out a little. Some here, some there. Bury some on mountaintops, some in the ground, cremate a few and yes -- it's now religiously allowed to chuck a human body in the sea as well. To repeat -- no more mass graves.

11. Only stone or behead anyone if you are certain you have enough oil to bribe big countries from doing anything about it.

12 (a). As for weapons of mass destruction, this is important, listen carefully:
Either you have nukes and nobody messes with you, or you shut the hell up until you get them, ok? Anything in-between is a waste of everybody's time.

And if by chance you want nuclear weapons at all, why sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty? Wonder why India, Pakistan and Israel don't have sleepless nights fearful of a visit from the IAEA but you do?

On the subject of signing things...

12 (b). Do not, I repeat, do not sign the Rome Statute that commits you to the International Criminal Court. What sort of moron does that? If you have already signed, don't ratify it. Cancel it. Get out. Do you think Donald Rumsfeld would've been able to write all his literary classics, those known and unknown, from a prison cell at the Hague?

13. And to conclude: Keep the internet free and leave the bloggers alone, because not only are they needed to share this valuable piece of advice, but I assure you my brothers, once you see that #KimKardashian and #CharlieSheen are trending on Twitter and not that #massatrocity you are in the process of committing, you'll wonder why on earth you went through all the trouble shutting the damn thing down in the first place.

Stay safe and thanks for listening, the future depends on you and your sons, and their sons, and their sons, and their sons...

Your dear friend,

Imran