The Dictator Retirement Island

Looking over the last 35 years of history, I want to make the following proposal:  the Dictator Retirement Island.

Here is how it works.  The US puts a sum of money in a Swiss account for the dictator.  The US moves dictator to a lush island complete with lavish lifestyle complete with personal performances from US pop stars (this seems to be a very popular activity for both dictators and US singers).  The US guards the dictator from vengeful rebel groups, human rights organizations, threats if extradition, etc.  In exchange the dictator gives up power and allows the US to impose an interim Constitution and supervise free elections.

It used to be that deposed kings/emperors/strong men could find a home in exile somewhere.  The promise of exile probably helped prevent scorched-Earth battles by dictators who know that loss of power will mean torture and death.  The German Kaiser lived in exile for 20 years in the Netherlands after WWI.


  • A whole lot cheaper than military action -- the first 10 minutes of our involvement in Libya when we launched a bunch of cruise missiles cost over $100 million.
  • Saves a lot of lives, both citizens and US military
  • Increases frequency of positive regime changes


  • To say the least, monetary rewards heaped on ruthless dictators are fairly unsatisfying
  • Ticks off human rights groups.  More importantly, ticks off rebel groups in home country (even giving medical care in US to deposed Shah was a huge problem for Iranian rebels)
  • Many still might not accept, even when backed into a wall.  It's the power that is compelling, not just the money and lifestyle, and most dictators are really good at denying reality


  1. Dave:

    To address the last problem the dictator should also get a business or a charitable foundation to run. Give them a hotel or something.

  2. Maddog:

    Are you sure that US military lives would be saved by staying home versus going to war? The last few wars don't seem to support this belief.

    I prefer the idea that the dictators all live in France. We could rename it Surrender Monkeys United. The real benefit is that we should be about out of dictators at about the same time France succumbs to its demographic bomb and the Islamist within. Perhaps in a moment of singularity the whole kit and kaboodle will simply wink out of existence.

  3. caseyboy:

    Hmmm, I must admit I'm conflicted. On the one hand it certainly seems a more humane and economical way to deal with tyrants. However, I wonder if it wouldn't create a lot of want-a-be copy cats who just want to get to pleasure island?

    Maybe if our pleasure island was like the one that "The Running Man" winners (convicted felons) were sent to when they won their competitions. You know, the one that game show host Damon Killian said was full of beautiful women, food and fun. The dictators think they're going to pleasure island, but we know they are going to die.

  4. Don:

    These guys generally have a high IQ and are used to running things and getting what they want.

    Now, envision them with unlimited money (I'm assuming anything less wouldn't tempt them, since they have literally Billions of Dollars at their disposal, more if they are in an oil rich country), and lots of free time, I see "Dictator's Island" becoming a nuclear power inside 10 years.

    And, you'd need more than one island. Can you envision Qaddafi SHARING his island? Pretty implausible.

  5. MJ:

    Good idea, but already proposed by Roger Waters more than 25 years ago. See here.

  6. tribal elder:

    Add the following incentives to the portfolio to encourage the move -

    1-The first strike (if there must be one)is smart bombs/cruise missiles delivered to your palace(s)

    2-Your confiscated assets gifted to the your-nation's-name-here-Rifle Association, with half of it 'in kind'

    3-A bounty on your Excellency, complete with a US visa for the successful bounty hunter and his family, equal to what you've skimmed from humanitarian relief and foreign aid in the last two years for your delivery, alive, into US hands

    4-A bounty on your Excellency, complete with a US visa for the successful bounty hunter and his family, equal to what you've skimmed from humanitarian relief and foreign aid in the last five years for your confirmed delivery, dead, into US hands

  7. John David Galt:

    This is a lot like a personal dream I have had for years:

    If I had the kind of money that Bill Gates or Warren Buffett does, I would pick some nasty dictatorship in the poor parts of the world, and offer the dictator say, $100 million and a nice home on a tropical beach in exchange for retiring there and turning over his country to me. Then I'd turn it into the next Hong Kong: strong property protection laws, and next to no economic regulation.

    Result: the local people get rich, and in 20 years I've made ten times my investment. Then I move on to the next worst dictator and repeat the process.

    Any individual who understands economics will do a better job at this than the US government. And the people of the target countries will wind up freer and richer too.

  8. Rich:

    I don't think it would cost too much at all really. We only have to make them "believe" they are going to a lush island...

  9. Kuntal Shah:

    Warren, you always talk about incentives. What you are proposing here creates a strong incentive for perfectly acceptable rulers to become dictators as they near retirement !!

  10. Matt:

    I think Saudi Arabia offered Saddam $1-$2 billion to move to Belarus shortly before the US invaded.

  11. ap:

    Somehow, the north coast of Molokai seems like an appropriate location, since it's no longer needed as a leper colony.

  12. Alex:

    For the power thing, let him play Civ 4. Yes, Civ 5 sucks. No self-respecting tyrant would play it.

  13. tehag:

    Let me pile on. There was an article in the Atlantic on this theme in the 1980s, IIRC. I think by Fox Butterfield. Good idea.

  14. ParatrooperJJ:

    Just let Delta take care of the problem.

  15. John David Galt:

    While I'm sure Delta could get the job done if allowed to hit the right targets, we haven't had a commander-in-chief since Ike whom I would trust to know who the right targets are.