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Rumors, Endgame, and Just Deserts

One of the richest veins we mined in the writing of this book was the various ways in which a one-man regime can crumble, prolong itself, or pass a legacy on to its successors. The clearest preference for any tyrant would be to die peacefully and cede power to a natural dauphin, and thus ensure that his legacy lasts at least as long as the flowers on his grave. But we all know life isn't often that clean. For dictators, who are generally weaker than they look, abrupt, violent endings are commonplace, and they are usually followed by a period of chaos during which any legacy is torn to shreds by power blocks competing for ascendency. What do you do to avoid this kind of unpleasant scenario? Read chapter 13 of The Dictator's Handbook for a complete guide to the autocrat's options, but recent headlines from Damascus suggest that at least one bit of advice can be gleaned. Read on. 

Clearly, if you are the boss and pride yourself on projecting a calm and ruthless aura of power, then you should not let rumors of your potential demise or flight proliferate in the wake of civil unrest (or civil war, in the case of Syria). These are warning signs that if unheeded will loosen a tyrant's grip on power and lead to a probably violent end. Once the citizenry can imagine the leader as a cowering, frightened figure -- someone who fears the people as they turn on him -- then a general insurrection is in the cards. Simply put: when they whisper 'where is Assad?', it will be payback time very soon. 

It could also be argued that the ultimate cycle of the 'falling dictator' arc begins with a bloody-handed response to legitimate unrest, and the particular ruthlessness of Assad's response to the uprising in Syria would seem to bear this out. In any case, the rumors are starting and perhaps, very soon, another domino will fall as well. 

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