Dictator’s Handbook (Book Review)


title: Dictator’s Handbook: A Practical Manual for the Aspiring Tyrant

author(s): Randall Wood and Carmine DeLuca

what you’ll learn: how dictators get power, and how the world really works

Why You Must Read It

When I lived in Spain, one of my apartment mates was an American who always wore a t-shirt with an image of the Canadian flag. When I asked why, he replied that Europeans hated Americans … but they all loved Canadians. So by wearing that shirt, people will think he is Canadian. If I remember correctly, he also knew the Canadian anthem.

O Canada!
Our home and native land!

At the time, George W. Bush was president. My local, castellano friends hated him. Madrid had just been bombed more than a year ago. The Spaniards blamed the US for that event. It is safe to say that being an American was not advantageous overseas. So, I have to give my Canadian American friend some credit, for thinking outside the box.

Back then, I was still relatively clueless about how the world worked. I thought the US was the greatest country in the world. Other countries were just jealous. I thought that politicians, agencies, and government are there for the benefit of the general public. Those who have been exposed for corrupted were outliers — far and few in between. I thought all those young, jobless Europeans were just lazy. Those who worked hard would definitely have a job.

Looking back, I was wrong.

I don’t know what ignited the changing of my viewpoints. But one of the special abilities you get by being a power player is x-ray vision. No, you won’t be able to see bones. You won’t even be able to see through clothes. Instead, you will be able to look past the media, PR, and cheap talk … and focus on the action. Why does he do what he does? How will it benefit him?

One such book that will help you develop your x-ray vision is Dictator’s Handbook: A Practical Manual for the Aspiring Tyrant. It contains many tactics used by world leaders to get and to hold onto power. Unlike The 48 Laws of Power, the tactics in the handbook are quite current. None of the examples and actions took place more than 75 years ago.

In this book …

You will see how they move up the ranks to become dictator.

You will see how they took power, if it was not given to them.

You will see how they used media for their own selfish purposes.

You will see how they became rich.

You will see how they kept people loyal … or how they kept people obedient.

You will see how they kept more powerful countries happy.

You will see how they manipulated relief organizations and other countries for aid. (Of course, the aid rarely went to those who desperately need it. Care to guess where it really went?)

You will see how they can keep disgruntled people at peace by using soothing words, without making any meaningful changes.

You will see why some countries remain perpetually poor, despite the billions of dollars flowing into them.

And more.

The primary benefit for reading the book is to develop your x-ray vision. You will see how the world really works. You will see the truth about people. You will see the meaning behind their actions. You will no longer become a sheep that is so easily manipulated and devoured. And if you have any ambition, you may even become a shepherd to guide the sheep — or even a wolf to them.

It is very unlikely you will become a dictator of your own country. But maybe you’ll become a dictator leader of your own business empire, or of your own turf in a corporation. Therefore, the book can help you get, hold onto, and profit from power. (It can also help you detect the plays that are being used against you.)

You have to remember that it is a book of tactics, not a book of strategy. You shouldn’t copy everything you read. Yes, some dictators assassinated their opponents, but that does not mean you should do so. If you’re a middle manager and you assassinate your rival, it could very well land you in prison.

They key point to remember is to control everything. If you want to know how to establish control (and hence, acquire power), you’ll have to turn to Dictator’s Handbook.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 – Getting to Power

Chapter 2 – Inimitable You

Chapter 3 – Building and Managing Your Government

Chapter 4 – Running the Nation

Chapter 5 – The Culture of Fear

Chapter 6 – Politics and the Party

Chapter 7 – Military, Security, and Intelligence Forces

Chapter 8 – Unrest, Demonstrations, Riots

Chapter 9 – The Press, Media, and Communication

Chapter 10 – The International Community

Chapter 11 – Building Your Financial Empire

Chapter 12 – Elections

Chapter 13 – Your End Game

Choice Excerpt

Negotiation, Hedging Your Bets, and Denouement

Despite your best efforts, the protesters have backed you into a corner and even the military is urging you to be reasonable. This is usually a bad sign and may mean your grip on power is slipping. Fear not — even in the face of this kind of pressure there are still several useful tactics that can be employed to catch your enemies off guard, deflate the protests, and win back the support of the masses.

Insist Reform Is Already Underway. Give the people what they want — only point out that they’d had it all along. In insisting that reforms are already being studied, or even implemented, you can catch the opposition off guard and paint the protesters as misinformed, agents provocateurs, or simply traitorous malcontents. Note that, as Moroccans took to the streets in 2011, the Minister of Communication insisted that Morocco “has embarked a long time ago on an irreversible process of democracy and widening of public freedoms.” Those sounds you hear are the collective sighs of relief of on-the-fence Moroccans, the contented exhalations of many fence sitters, and relieved exclamations of the leadership.

The Art of the Half-Offer. When pressed for electoral reforms, instead of opening the economy or dismantling your secret police apparatus, funnel some extra funds into “education” and allow local elections. In other words, offer table scraps when demonstrators call for a full-course meal. Offering something small and insignificant to appease the fomentors of public unrest is a time-worn tactic that works; most people are happy getting something for free, particularly if the price of what they’ve been agitating for is to be paid in blood.

There are many ways to propose the half-offer. Offer (but don’t mention):

  • Elections. (The role your party will play in them, or the right of other parties to participate.)
  • A Truth & Reconciliation Commission. (How long it will take, whether the results will be published, or whether anything will result from the findings.)
  • You’ll Step Down. (When you’ll do so, who will rule after you, and what role you’ll play henceforth.)
  • Openness and Transparency. (That the chair of the oversight committee is the former head of the secret police.)

All Talk: Using Negotiation to De-legitimize Protesters. Keep the street protests from expanding by offering to open talks with your political opposition. Let them think it’s an overture toward a power sharing agreement; in reality it’s just hotel conference rooms, free wi-fi, and coffee and cookies, and you can make “talks” last forever, if necessary (as in Yemen). To encourage them to accept the invitation, extend the offer while pummeling the rebels in a particularly grueling way elsewhere.

If you do consider this tactic, be sure to insist that, although you are willing to begin talks (whatever that means), you will not do so while people are in the streets. Be firm on this point: all protests, demonstrations, sit-ins, and equivalent stop immediately before the negotiations begin. This is a sound negotiating principle that recently has been on display during the unrest in the Middle East (Yemen).

Cosmetic Changes: Staff Shuffling. It’s not unreasonable to sacrifice a few lambs to the slaughter, particularly if cutting your losses in this manner can remove some untrustworthy subordinates. Convince the protesters you are reacting to their demands by firing a few cabinet members and ministers, or shuffling them between posts. King Abdullah II of Jordan chose this route in 2011 as protests increased in force. Abdullah appointed a new Prime Minister whose objective, he said, would be to “[take] practical, swift and tangible steps to launch a real political reform process, in line with the king’s version of comprehensive reform, modernization and development.” The move indeed seemed to satisfy many protesters, who will nevertheless have to wait to see if that’s the way it plays out.

Appeasement Through a Successor. You can potentially quell riots by offering to step down and hand power over to a successor. Your successor should be picked by you, and should be a person who will satisfy the rioters, continue your rule for you, and find a way to hand power back to you in the best tradition of Continuismo (see section 12.1). In the case of Hosni Mubarak, as the 2011 riots gathered strength, he nominated Omar Suleiman as his vice president, ensuring the support of the military and preparing the ground for a potential future military government.

Get it now!

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  1. Brother! I have to say where do you find these books?
    I used to think like you in that I thought that the US could do no wrong. I could never understand why there were people who despised us to a point that they wanted to kill us. When I was a teenager I began to get an interest in watching documentaries about countries and how they tended to play on one another. How certain events were allowed to happen so that we can have the excuse we needed to attack or topple another country’s government.

    It’s not hard to realize why they play these games on everyone. It’s all about who hS the power and who gets the money, natural resources etc. Many of the documentaries like the one I saw called operation gladio. In that certain western governments engaged in terrorism in and around Europe. You begin to realize that the Drug War and the War on Terror and all of the other wars we do not know about is all bullshit! All a way to control the population and keep them in fear. To keep those who profit from these wars DEA, FBI, ATF, IRS, TSA and the rest of the alphabet boys. Without these wars they could never justify the billions of dollars dumped into those departments. Imagine what would happen if the War On Drugs was no more! There would be a lot ex cops and Feds on the unemployment line because there will be no use for the anymore.

    So many things go on and it baffles me that the rest of the people do not see it. I guess seeing the truth behind the curtain has made me cynical as I do not believe in anything those politicians or any other person who claims himself or herself a leader of the people.

    Great post alex will have to look further into this book.

    • Jose,

      It the play behind the scenes are always done for power. Few people are perceptive enough to realize what is going on. Tell them a nice story or feed them some nice bs and they would be happy.

      Oh, by the way, check your e-mail. I’ll hook you up with a nice gift.

  2. Hey dude, have you read ‘The Forbidden Keys to Persuasion’ by Blair Warren? It’s not a published book – it’s an ebook. I’m 1/4 of the way through it and it seems to have some interesting ideas. It’s available for free on Scribd I believe.

  3. Can’t believe I’ve not heard about this book before.

    I’m adding this to my list.

    • Don’t feel bad. I don’t think it is well-known (yet). I had to actually search out for for books about power, since there are not too many good ones.


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