A Pitfall For Saudi Tyranny
The Opinion Journal today features excellent insights into Saudi succession by Simon Henderson.
Henderson's piece is called 'Saudi Brezhnevs', and it is an apt title on several levels. Henderson points out the importance of weighing the age and seniority versus the relative infirmity of the Saudi princes in gauging who will rule Saudi Arabia in the coming years. Henderson rightly predicts a quick succession of aged kings resembling the fast turnover of Soviet leadership post-Brezhnev.
That is not the only similarity with the Brezhnev progeny. The Saudis now face this problem for the very same reasons the Soviets did: their polity is a tyranny where seniority and Machiavellian power plays count for more than winning support directly from the people.
Add this to the roster of institutional advantages democracies have over tyrannies: vigor in mind and body are prized in our candidates for office, who can be replaced when they lose these attributes. Not that physical problems are a disqualification - FDR conquered nazism from a wheelchair. But he was able to maintain the energy necessary to the tasks up to the very end of his tenure (some say it killed him early) and of course he had his wits about him.
In a tyranny however, physical and even mental impairments are no bar to rulership - anything goes. One likes to think that Darwinian principles applied to political systems will weed out such structural weaknesses, and that the demonstrably inferior model of tyanny will wither away in favor of democracy.
Much as the Soviet Union did.