By Clay R. Fuller
Why not try using Twitter to call for Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe to go? It’s a costless way to project American values and may turn out to be a valuable foreign policy tool.
There’s no need for a physical intervention in Zimbabwe. Hopefully we’ve learned by now that they rarely work, are expensive, and frequently backfire. People don’t want or need others to tell them what they want or need. They want to take care of themselves — through a democratic government they built themselves. Billions of people around the world still fight and die for the mere right to choose their own governments, create their own jobs, and ultimately live with dignity and freedom. Dictators work against these fundamental principles. Democracies foster them.
The 93 year old Robert Mugabe came to power while Reagan was in office. Academics call Mugabe a “personalist” dictator — a strongman that will do anything to hold on to power. On my desk sits a Zimbabwean fifty trillion dollar bill. It is a daily reminder of what personalist leaders can do to economies. The mass graves of Iraq, Cambodia, Congo, and Rwanda serve as a reminder of what happens to people.
Currently, tanks are rolling into the capital of Zimbabwe as Mugabe continues to consolidate power in preparation for his 52 year old wife to take power when he dies. He has consolidated power since 1987 through purges, rigged elections, and anti-corruptioncampaigns. What happens next will depend on whose side the military chooses, but the difficult struggle ahead for political and economic stability in Zimbabwe is unfortunately as predictable as the frequency of Donald Trump’s tweets. But one does not have to know the particulars of the Zimbabwean power struggle to know that it’s not right.
A Tweet storm about how #MugabeMustGo, the racist leader of a country with no threat to our national security, may be just enough to energize true indigenous democratic reform in the heart of Africa so it can spread — minus costly interventions. A tweet is costless, so why not try? There has to be a good nickname for Mugabe.
And why stop with Mugabe? Kenyan democracy could use some encouragement. The Twitter Presidency could use some direction, much like US foreign policy. Why not use Twitter to promote freedom? (It’s no secret that dictators have learned to harness the marketplace of ideas in foreign affairs.)
It’s time for US foreign policy to call out dictators for what they are — enemies of democracy. Engage the enemy in the battlespace of ideas. The good news? Ideas and Twitter accounts, much like people in democracies, are free. – AEI