MBZ on the NYT
The other day I was reading a very interesting article on the New York Times about Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed.
There are many interesting things to think about, for instance, how a nation is built with the command of one man — of course, it takes much more than sheer individual will, but if you take these actors from history things might be drastically different. (I mean, Helmut Kohl will never die)
Another thing is how things would be different if the UAE were a democracy. Very likely, it would be some sort of Islamist nation, being, as the article says, an illiberal democracy like Turkey, instead of a socially liberal autocracy.
Personally, I find this much better than the alternative (if the alternative really is Islamist governance).
And these two observations point to two principles of good statecraftmanship: firstly, even though the ethos — or the leitkultur — of a state might be dictated by a man, a family and so on, it is necessary to construct institutions and cultivate the human capital capable of carrying the institutions beyond the death of the leader.
The examples of a state that became completely other due to the death of the main leader are uncountable: from the Mongols to St. Louis IX — it is hard to imagine, from the perspective of Louis IX, how, a mere seventy years later, the monarch of France would be imprisoning a pope and killing him.
Secondly, this relates to an earlier post on von Metternich: one must govern a people with the structure that is necessary for good governance — for the rule of law. This might mean democracy on some parts of the globe; but it might mean an autocracy in others — and it might even vary radically in the same state but in different scales.