The Would Be Tyrant’s Mistake

Because they tend to surround themselves with sycophants and thus get bad advice and hear no honest criticism of their grand designs, would be tyrants, to the benefit of the world, tend to make large mistakes that ultimately limit their power.

The collective tyrants who owned slaves in the United States made the huge error of thinking they were better off starting their own nation, so they seceded from the United States, leading Abraham Lincoln to call up U.S. troops to force them to capitulate. Although Lincoln did not think he had the authority at the beginning of the Civil War to interfere with slavery where it existed, by 1863, he saw that he needed to make ending slavery an official goal in the War in order to win it, so he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, putting the U.S. government squarely on the side of emancipating all slaves, which Lincoln’s Republican colleagues did soon after the War ended.

Shortly before he began World War II, Hitler’s foreign minister negotiated a treaty with his counterpart from the Soviet Union, what we know as the Molotov – von Ribbentrop Pact. One week after the signing, the Nazis invaded Poland, which precipitated the outbreak of World War II. Two weeks later, as the pact provided, the Soviets invaded Poland from the other side. Creating an alliance with the Soviet Union had the advantage for Hitler of ensuring that he would not have to worry about invasion from the east as he focused on invading France. As important as its military advantages for the Germans, the treaty also enabled extensive economic cooperation between the two nations, with the Soviets providing raw materials and the Germans providing manufactured items and a large loan to the Soviets.

But not quite two years later, on June 22 1941, the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union, abrogating the Pact. This was arguably Hitler’s largest mistake. On the logic that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, suddenly the Soviet Union was allied with the United States and Great Britain against Germany and Italy. Although Stalin always suspected the U.S. and Britain as allies, thinking that they were just as happy to watch the Nazis and the communists kill each other off, the allies first invaded Italy, then France, squeezing Germany between the Soviets in the east and the other Allies in the west. As proof of how foolish Hitler’s decision to invade the Soviet Union was, the Soviets were the first enemies to enter Berlin. Hitler killed himself in his bunker before Berlin fell on May 2 and Germany as a whole officially surrendered on May 7, 1945.

Such was Richard Nixon’s megalomania that he went to absurd, and illegal, lengths to ensure that he would win the presidential election of 1972, even though he was fairly popular and would almost certainly have won a comfortable victory even without illegal tactics. On June 17, 1972, four men working for the Nixon campaign broke into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate Hotel. A security guard caught them and called the police, leading to an FBI investigation. In February 1973, the Senate began its own investigation into the Watergate scandal, finding out, among other things, that Nixon had a secret recording system in the Oval Office on which he recorded conversations with whoever he happened to talk to there.

By October 1973, Archibald Cox had accepted the job of serving as special prosecutor to investigate the Watergate scandal. He secured a subpoena for the tapes containing recordings of Nixon’s Oval Office conversations. Nixon resisted the subpoena, fighting all the way to the Supreme Court after firing Cox, which proved to be Nixon’s big mistake. The Supreme Court decided unanimously that Nixon had to turn over transcripts of his recorded conversations. Those transcripts proved determinative for many of the members of the House Judiciary Committee as they voted out articles of impeachment against the President, prompting Nixon to resign rather than face trial in the Senate.

Now, forty three years later, we again have a special prosecutor investigating a president for alleged obstruction of justice. The Donald has not tried to fire Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor of 2017, but the idea has emerged, apparently from the so called president himself. Given that Trump was apparently dumb enough to commit exactly the same crime as Nixon despite having lived through Watergate as an adult, it does not seem too farfetched that he would also be dumb enough to follow through on the stupid by trying to fire the special prosecutor, despite an explicit promise of impeachment proceedings if he does so.

That would be the huge mistake that removed yet another would be tyrant from the world.

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