Sunday, December 31, 2006

Saddam Execution

David Hirst has a good obit of Saddam Hussein in The Guardian

The Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who was executed this morning at the age of 69, may not yield many general biographies - he was personally too uninteresting for that - but he will be a case study for political scientists for years to come. For he was the model of a certain type of developing world despot, who was, for over three decades, as successful in his main ambition, which was taking and keeping total power, as he was destructive in exercising it.

Yet at the same time, he was commonplace and derivative. Stalin was his exemplar. The likeness came from more than conscious emulation: he already resembled him in origin, temperament and method. Like him, he was unique less in kind than in degree, in the extraordinary extent to which, if the more squalid forms of human villainy are the sine qua non of the successful tyrant, he embodied them. Like Stalin, too, he had little of the flair or colour of other 20th-century despots, little mental brilliance, less charisma, no redeeming passion or messianic fervour; he was only exceptional in the magnitude of his thuggery, the brutality, opportunism and cunning of the otherwise dull, grey apparatchik.

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