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Security

Dictator’s ideology partly determines the extent to which they can be influenced

The extent to which a dictator believes in the ideology he propagates is a crucial factor in the decision-making process of his regime. This ideological conviction also determines the extent to which they can be influenced.

This is a conclusion drawn by Maartje Weerdesteijn in the PhD thesis she defended on December 12th at Tilburg University. Weerdesteijn investigated the role dictators play in the perpetration of atrocities.

Non-democratic systems of government constitute an important risk factors for the perpetration of atrocities such as genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. At the 2005 UN World Summit, the international community reached agreement on the responsibility to protect and decided that when the state manifestly fails to protect its own population, this responsibility falls upon the international community. However, the implementation of this responsibility to protect leaves room for improvement.  

Maartje Weerdesteijn investigated the role of dictators in the perpetration of these crimes. She also analyzed dictators’ decision-making processes in response to measures devised by the international community to stop these crimes.

On the basis of a comparison between the dictators Pol Pot and Slobodan Milosevic, Weerdesteijn concludes that the extent to which a dictator believes in the ideology he propagates constitutes a crucial factor in the decision-making process. This partly also determines the extent to which the dictator can be influenced.

When Vietnam invaded Cambodia after a horrible conflict in the border region, Pol Pot kept on fighting until he was forced to flee. Slobodan Milosevic, on the other hand, eventually decided to come to an agreement with NATO. NATO decided to bomb Serbia in response to the atrocities Milosevic’s regime had perpetrated in Kosovo. His behavior was less ideology-driven than Pol Pot’s and he was easier to influence as a result.

According to Weerdesteijn, the responsibility to protect can be implemented more effectively by recognizing that there are different types of rationality. In this, the extent to which a dictator can be influenced should be part of the factors taken into consideration.

Note to editors

Maartje Weerdesteijn defended her doctoral thesis on December 12th at Tilburg University. Thesis title: The rationality of dictators: Towards a more effective implementation of the responsibility to protect. Supervisors: Prof. A.L. Smeulers, Prof. T. Kooijmans. Requests for review copies through persvoorlichters@tilburguniversity.edu. Maartje Weerdesteijn can be reached at m.weerdesteijn@uu.nl or through Tilburg University press briefing, tel. 013 – 466 2993.