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Need for Authoritarian Rule Research Paper

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Updated: Apr 16th, 2019


Recent studies on international relations reveal that the world is troubled with primeval ethnic conflict. This implies that tribal groups lie in wait for one another. Ethnic groups nurture a long-standing revulsion, but they cannot engage in war because powerful authoritarian leaders control them. From this perspective, it is difficult for tribal groups to coexist without the use of force, which can only be implemented by powerful leaders who have absolute authority.

In Eastern Europe, former Yugoslavia serves as an example whereby the Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians coexisted yet they belonged to different ethnic groups. The groups lived for several years peacefully, but they rose against each other without a valid reason. This was after the fall of the authoritarian rule, which held them together for a long time. Serbs, Croats and Bosnians share a common language and history, but they differ in terms of other cultural aspects.

They have always viewed each other with suspicion as regards to resource distribution. Ethnicity becomes nationalism when various groups attempt to control major state resources, such as land and power. The Serbs and Croats advocated for their rights by joining other European nations that demanded self-governance.

While Serbs drew examples from the short-lived nation-state, Croats were in advanced stages of developing a nationalist ideology (Geertz 67). Croats believed that their rival regarding resource allocation were the Serbs. Therefore, the best alternative was to eliminate them. This could not materialize given the fact that a powerful authoritarian leader could not allow this to happen.

This paper evaluates the statement that antagonistic ethnic groups can live together for years due to the presence of the authoritarian leader. The article therefore supports the hypothesis that soft authoritarianism is needed to maintain peace and political stability.

Authoritarian Rule in Yugoslavia

Yugoslavia was formed after the First World War following the despicable conflicts that characterized the region. Serbs dominated the state since they owned major businesses. This was never received well by the Croats who felt that their position was under threat, as they owned nothing.

In this regard, the Croats formed a militant organization referred to as Ustashe, which aimed at fighting for the rights of all Croats. The militant organization could not do much before the Second World War because of the presence of an authoritarian leader. Following the collapse of the state during the Second World War, the Croats collaborated with the Nazis to exterminate the Serbs. The Serbs were forced to work in concentration camps together with the Jews while others were expelled from the region.

The Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic declared war on the Croats when he noticed that his people were dying in large numbers. After the Second World War, a strong authoritarian leader took over in Yugoslavia, who controlled occurrence of another massacre until 1990s when the two warring communities rose against each other once more. Marshall Tito ensured that civil groups were not formed in the country since they could easily derail the peace efforts.

Instead, he developed shared political values that were to be observed by both communities. Political opposition was expected to obey certain political values, irrespective of the region. This meant that both the Serbs and the Croats were to abide by the national political principles (Friedman 56). Moreover, the authoritarian ruler ensured that Croats owned land in Serbia while Serbs also owned land in Croatia.

The African Case: Genocide in Rwanda

In Africa, the issue of ethnicity started with colonialism whereby the settlers ensured that each African identifies him or herself with a certain ethnic group. This was to enable easy identification, which was perceived to be a strategy for preventing conflicts with the whites. Belgian administrators supported the Tutsis when they gave them a monopoly regarding state power. Tutsis accumulated power to an extent of making the Hutus the poorest in the country.

Hutus had to wait for an opportunity to revenge because the Belgian administration could not tolerate any conflicts. In this case, it is true that authoritarian rule prevented conflicts in Rwanda. Colonialists noticed that they could govern the African continent by collaborating with certain ethnic groups.

In many cases, they collaborated with groups that embraced Christianity or minorities. Europeans applied force in Africa because they did not have numbers. Authoritarianism was applied successfully to safeguard their rule. Nationalism is closely related to culture and industrialization, something that encouraged many colonialists (Spencer and Wollman 34).

When African leaders took over power, particularly in Rwanda, authoritarianism was applied successfully to keep the Hutus and the Tutsis together. Things changed in 1994 when authoritarian rule was condemned, paving way for openness, which resulted to the genocide (Hintjens 21).

Since authoritarian leaders have absolute control over the state machinery, they will always ensure that peace prevail in society. Such leaders do not give ethnic groups time to reorganize in order kill many people. Individuals would be reluctant to participate in violence once they realize that the consequences would be stern. Groups would be waiting for opportunities to come for them to engage in violent demonstration that usually result to deaths.

It should be understood that strong leadership at the top determines whether ethnic groups rise against each other in any society. The Rwandan (Hutus and Tutsis) and Balkan (Croats, Bosnians and Serbs) cases would be used as example to show that powerful leadership, which is complimented with authoritarian, does not give room to violent conflicts.

In Rwanda, the president started assembling gangs in 1990 in order to wipe out his closest opponents, who were the Hutus and the Tutsis. He formed a militia group referred to as the Interahamwe, which conducted a massacre in 1992. Since the Tutsis were accused of siding with colonialists to deprive the Rwandese of their wealth, all radio stations were ordered to spread hate messages against them. This resulted to systematic killing of the Tutsis and the Hutu moderates.

Main Features of Authoritarian Regimes

As earlier noted in the introduction section, authoritarian leaders are always in opposition of multiparty politics mainly because they fear competitive politics. They do not allow divergent views to infiltrate the electorate because their leadership would be in danger. Such leaders would do everything to ensure that the opposition does not exist in the country.

For instance, they would incorporate other unscrupulous techniques such as political assassination and constant frustration of the opposition. To these leaders, the end will always justify the means implying that their techniques of rule do not matter so much, but what matters is the acquisition of power and its subsequent maintenance (Diamond 117).

Another feature that characterizes authoritarianism is that a group of few individuals control all state organs implying that the idea of checks and balances do not apply. Usually, the president is in charge of everything that should be undertaken in government. Separation of powers plays a critical role in checking the excess of the executive.

Unfortunately, this principle is not observed in an authoritarian regime because the legislature will never challenge the decision of the president, even though it has a mandate of ensuring that the law-making process is smooth.

In extreme cases, the legislature would be used as a rubber stamp meaning that its role is to approve the bills that originates from the executive arm of government. Any politician that opposes the decision of the executive is viewed as an opponent of the state and is often subjected to inhumane treatment whereby security forces would harass him or her frequently.

Authoritarian regimes are also referred to as the single party states because of certain features. One of the features is that the freedom of speech is highly controlled whereby an individual is not allowed to assemble without the permission of the government. This implies that demonstrations, strikes, and picketing are not allowed.

People found demonstrating without obtaining necessary documentation from the state agencies are arrested and would be charged in the court of law (Bremmer 110). The judiciary is always dependent because it observes the instructions issued by one arm of the government, which is usually the executive. In this regard, it is eminent that freedom of assembly is not permitted in an authoritarian regime because an individual cannot hold a meeting without approval from the police.

In other authoritarian regimes, an individual would be expected to obtain a local travelling document, which means that the freedom of movement even within the state borders is highly restricted. The opposition leaders perceived to be a threat to the authoritarian ruler are often denied passports to travel within the state boundaries.

Apart from local restrictions regarding travelling, an individual must also receive approval from the government before travelling abroad. Authoritarian leaders fear the pressure of the west or developed countries meaning that they will always ensure opposition leaders do not meet with foreign donors (Huntington 68).

Regarding the media freedom, the press is only allowed to report matters that are positive whereby information is censored before being reported. Any information perceived to go against the will of the government is always subjected to close scrutiny before being allowed to reach the public.

Corruption, misappropriation of funds, poor governance, neglect of the rule of law, non-observance of the bill of rights, and inequality regarding resource distribution are some of the features that characterize authoritarian regimes. The media must always be guided on what to report concerning the performance of the government. Those that go against the wishes of the government are harshly punished by being detained for long periods without trail.

Others are frustrated to an extent of fleeing the country in fear of assassination. The opposition should never operate within the state borders because its leaders are considered political dissidents who must operate outside the state borders. In the African continent, authoritarian leaders are usually referred to as personal rulers because their major aim is to fulfil individual needs, such as resource accumulation.

It should be noted however that authoritarian rulers differ in their style of leadership because some may possess all the above-mentioned qualities while others might be having just some of the features. Moreover, some might be more oppressive while others might be accommodative meaning that they allow some political competition of opposing views.

Nevertheless, all authoritarian leaders tend to employ similar strategies regarding the control of state. In fact, they all use the state machineries, including the police, the military, the courts, and government ministries to frustrate the opposition. The main aim of all authoritarian leaders is to hold on to power hence they would be willing to use all available methods.

The Need of Dictatorship

In the 1960s, many scholars and even religious leaders called for the establishment of authoritarian regimes because they were efficient in terms of managing the country’s security, as well as realizing the economic and socio-political dreams. The influential Buddhist Rajakeeya Panditha suggested in his works Sinhala that dictatorship would be the perfect form of leadership in some parts of Asia because it would bring sanity and efficiency in matters related to resource management and distribution.

In Sri Lanka, the religious leader commented that authoritarianism would perhaps guarantee prosperity in the country, as well as help the country regain its socio-political and economic glory. Many people supported the view that dictatorship would ensure growth in Sri Lanka mainly because democracy had flopped. Leaders in government welcomed the views of this religious leader because they aimed at clinging on to power for long.

However, the views of many leaders regarding the works of the cleric were misplaced because he gave his own reasons for opposing democracy. Democratic regimes had failed to address the issues that affected the people of Sri Lanka. The cleric questioned why the country was still crippling with human problems that would be avoided, such as poverty, drought, poor representation, and even misappropriation of public funds.

Some studies suggest that authoritarianism brings out the best from an individual, which means that its results are instantaneous. If an individual is deprived his or her right and fear instilled in him or her, an alternative survival means would be sought. This means that an individual will have to work hard to avoid the negative consequences.

If people were informed that a tsunami is approaching, they would scamper for their lives because they understand its dangers. Similarly, people would have to fight for their survival if they are informed that they would be arrested if they do not achieve certain objectives. Under ordinary state of affairs, an individual would not engage him or herself in busy work because there are no repercussions. Therefore, authoritarianism plays a critical role in ensuring that people join hands in realizing certain aims and goals.

Democracy is the worst form of leadership that would force individuals to work together because it relies on people’s consent. One of the major tenets of authoritarianism is that it does not allow people to question the authority, unlike democracy, which allows the populace to be involved in designing major decisions. If development were to be achieved, people should not be allowed to argue over some common facts.

Other scholars are of the view that authoritarianism is the perfect form of leadership as far as resource creation and accumulation is concerned. In order to proper, any give society should create and accumulate wealth. People should not be allowed to spend everything they produce because they would not have anything to invest and use in the future. In the 4th century, an Indian scholar tried to understand the role of authoritarianism by using aphorism.

His examination was that a monster could only be controlled using another giant. Democracy would not promote wealth creation and saving for the future because it allows people to spend their resources without state intervention. Democracy is an illusion that does not achieve anything for the state. In fact, it compromises the interests of the state (Ramsay 168). The use of force would definitely help people in the end because they would have something to spend.

Hitler has always been cited as an example of economic development because he applied authoritarian rule successfully to develop Germany. He ensured that Germany developed from poverty to riches since it was considered an economic powerhouse during the Second World War.

Through his efforts, the country was able to develop some of the mostly admired infrastructural deigns in the world. Hitler utilized forced to mobilize resources, which accelerated economic growth. He transferred resources belonging to Jews to the government, which was utilized effectively to develop the military.

The military would bring glory to the state, unlike the Jews who were self-centred. The regime took over the fixed material goods, such as office blocks and industrial units, which were utilized in developing the country. Germany could not have attained its goals of conquering the world were it not for Hitler’s authoritarian rule. Hitler forced the Jews to work in concentration camps mainly to produce weapons and other valuable products that would be used in developing the country.

After death, the bones of Jews were used in making fertilizers for the German famers meaning that their bodies were not wasted. However, this is the worst example of using authoritarian rule to ensure that state interests are met. This could not have been achieved in a democratic society because people have the right to do as they wish (Kagan 112). Therefore, Germany could not have challenged the existing the international system at the time.

The civil society has always been a menace as far as realization of state interests is concerned. Forced labour camps in China, the Soviet Union, and Kampuchea received criticism from civil groups because such camps were considered slavery. Workers were not paid, but they were provided with adequate basic needs including food and clothing. The proceeds attained through forced labour would be used to develop the country.

The civil groups demanded that all workers be given what belongs to them meaning that they had to be paid suitable salaries. Regarding environmental degradation, civil groups claimed that the government, as well as private investors, had to keep off the forests. Moreover, investors had to use production methods are environmentally friendly.

This would actually derail production because the methods suggested could perhaps be inefficient. In a democratic society, leaders must be willing to accommodate divergent views. In reality, extensive consultations and unnecessary arguments are likely to derail economic development.

Totalitarian rule is well placed to control the affairs of the social groups and disobedient trade unions, which seem to compete with the state for power. In an authoritarian regime, decisions are made faster because the chain of command is always reduced. In fact, bureaucracy and hierarchies have contributed to the failure of many policies and programs, which would have otherwise contributed to economic development.

For development to take place in an urban centre, population must be evicted to pave way for reconstruction. In a democratic society, extensive consultation would be undertaken, which would even discourage potential investors from committing their funds. However, the case would be different in an authoritarian regime because people would be ordered to live within a specified time. Issues of court cases would not surface.

Under a dictator, a city planner would have powers to evict people at will hence paving way for city development. In China, this idea was effectively utilized to develop Shanghai, which is currently one of the most respected cities in the world. Shanghai is the world’s populous industrial city because subsequent authoritarian leaders in China have always ensured that land is available for investment.

In 2008, similar rule was applied in developing Beijing given the fact that it was expected to host the Olympics games. People were relocated to pave way for the extension of the city. China could not have hosted the Olympic Games were it not for the authoritarian rule that ordered forceful eviction of the locals to pave way for expansion of the field. In China, it is always believed that a little bit of authoritarian rule would guarantee prosperity.

Research shows that authoritarian regimes are better placed to implement unpopular reforms as compared to democratic regimes. This is because the central authority has monopoly over decision making and implementation process. This is compared to the democratic regimes, which must always seek the views of the majority before implementing any policy. The writings of various political philosophers suggest that authoritarianism is the best system of governance because the central authority has the power to act unilaterally.

Plato observed that democracy is the worst form of governance because it amounts to the tyranny of the multitude given the fact that the majority might sometimes be wrong. The populace is usually appetitive meaning that they only support something that seems to be pleasant yet they do not understand its tenets. Plato suggested that a good leadership is the one that is based on a certain system, such as an education system.

The leader should be knowledgeable for him or her to make effective decisions. Therefore, it is justifiable for a leader to exercise full authority without consultation if only he or she is knowledge. In the modern society, authoritarian leaders are in a position to resolve the many issues that affect both the state and non-state actors. For instance, an authoritarian leader would be in a position to deal with issues related to the environment, such as climatic change and resource deterioration.

In China, the policy suggesting that an individual should have only one child has been successful as compared to the similar policy being applied in India. Similarly, China refused to give in to the demands of the west regarding the sale of opium due to nationalism (Maalouf 78).

Authoritarianism has played a major role in ensuring that the governmental program on population management is effective. Similarly, antagonistic communities in various parts of the world have been able to coexist peacefully mainly because of the authoritarian rule. In Rwanda, the Tutsi and the Hutu communities fought each other in 1994 because there was a power vacuum in the state. The communities could not rise against each other because of the presence of the authoritarian authority.

Works Cited

Bremmer, Ian. The J Curve: A New Way to Understand Why Nations Rise and Fall. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006. Print.

Diamond, Larry. Introduction: Persistence, Erosion, Breakdown, and Renewal. Boulder: Lynne Rienner, 1989. Print.

Friedman, Andrew. “Kagame’s Rwanda: Can an Authoritarian Development Model be squared with Democracy and Human Rights”. Oregon Review of International Law, 253.2 (2012): 113-212.

Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays. New York, NY: Basic Books, 2000. Print.

Hintjens, Helen. Explaining the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda. Journal of Modern African Studies, 37.2 (1999): 241-286.

Huntington, Samuel. The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1991.

Kagan, Robert. The Return of History and the End of Dreams. New York: Vintage, 2009. Print.

Maalouf, Amin. In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong. New York: Arcade Pub, 2000. Print.

Ramsay, Fey. Africa. Guilford: McGraw-Hill, 1999. Print.

Spencer, Philip, and Wollman, Howard. Nationalism: A Critical Introduction. London: Sage, 2002. Print.

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