The Recipe for Tyranny

I’m a skilled amateur chef and, indeed, one of the many (many) jobs I’ve held over the years is that I’ve worked as a cook. Given that background I can say with confidence that it’s very disconcerting when the recipe you’ve got in hand lists an ingredient that’s not mentioned in the preparational steps.

This morning Venezuelan Moisés Naím, editor of the magazine Foreign Policy, has an op-ed in the Washington Post in which he presents the recipe enabling “autocrats to cook up a grab for power”. Among its dozen ingredients is a gratuitous sideswipe against the United States:

A foreign superpower neutralized or distracted by other priorities and congested with too many international emergencies.

That ingredient does not figure in the ten preparation steps with which he follows.

Any number of other possible gratuitous criticisms would have been possible. For example, he might have criticized an international organization (which shall remain nameless) to which Jeanne Kirkpatrick, our delegate to the aforementioned unnamed international organization, referred as a “Third World debating society” as either that or a place where its delegates go to interview for a cushy bureaucrat’s job with the organization so they can live Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous away from their home countries. Or other developed nations who’ve never met an autocratic regime so heinous they were unwilling to cozy up to it to secure lucrative trade deals. But no.

What would he have us do? Should we have bombed Venezuela? Invaded it? Blockaded it? Embargoed its goods? Damned it on the floor of the General Assembly? Imposed sanctions? Issued a stern demarche? Would any of those things have helped Venezuelans? And what of their rights to self-determination?

Isn’t it even in the realm of possibility that somewhere, somehow there’s a tiny, miserable country whose misery was caused entirely by its own society and actions?

The actual recipe may be a good one and it may be a favorite of autocrats everywhere but it’s left a bad taste in my mouth.

FILED UNDER: Uncategorized, United Nations, , ,
Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. It is troubling. It’s like including a stick of butter in the ingredients list and then failing to ever whip or melt or cut said butter in the preparation. So, what are we supposed to do? Make the recipe and then stare at the stick of butter?

    When we intervene we’re imperialists, the hyperpower, the blundering arrogant Americans incapable of understanding what’s going on. When we don’t intervene we’re exactly the same things.

  2. John Burgess says:

    Dave, I think your view of ‘living the life of the rich and famous’ may be more stereotype than fact. I’ve known quite a few diplomats, from four continents, who were assigned to the UN. Most of them, at junior grades, could only manage by having two or three roommates in apartments I certainly considered below average. Many of them are required by their governments to live in Manhattan. You can’t get much on a junior diplomat’s salary there.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    I’m thinking more of the heads of UN departments and agencies rather than junior diplomats, John. Plus I was exaggerating purposefully.

  4. RW Rogers says:

    Dave, the cardinal rule is that the United States should never interfere anywhere overseas over anything except for those times it should. Any time it does is a time it should not have done so and any time it doesn’t is a time it should have done so. If it does so after it first didn’t, it should not have done so. If it stops doing so after it first did, it should not have stopped doing so. This rule also includes just talking or thinking about doing or not doing something.

  5. Brett says:

    Isn’t it even in the realm of possibility that somewhere, somehow there’s a tiny, miserable country whose misery was caused entirely by its own society and actions?

    That would be Venezuela – inflation and shortages solely because of the government’s policies (prices set by fiat on a whole bunch of goods, plus oil spending to the inflationary point).

    To be honest, we really should care about Venezuela only in terms of how much of an effect they have on other South American states. For all his bluster, Chavez has done little to change the sale of oil and other goods northward (the US is still Venezuela’s largest trading partner, by far). The only exception might be when his government nationalizes the property of our corporations, and as long as he gives them decent compensation, I just really don’t care (Chavez has been in power for nearly 10 years, and nothing he’s said is new, so they knew the risks they were taking).