Paul Wolfowitz, “who knows a thing or two about overthrowing tyrants”, tells Foreign Policy that the secret to ousting Zimbabwe’s president is showing his people how much better off they’ll be without him.
“FP: What do you think will be the tipping point when Zimbabweans are strong enough to take matters into their own hands?
PW: In some ways—there are some big differences, too—this reminds me of the experience in the Philippines 22 years ago, early 1986, when Ferdinand Marcos tried to steal an election. I was the assistant secretary of state at the time for East Asia. Some people thought we could simply snap our fingers and Marcos would leave, but we didn’t have that kind of power. But what we were able to do, by the kinds of actions we did take and the kinds of statements we did make, was to do exactly what I hope would start to happen in Zimbabwe, which is [to ensure] that the people who are angry because the election was stolen will feel more emboldened to sustain the pressure, and the guys with the guns who are being asked to kill on behalf of the regime will begin to lose confidence.
At the risk of overdoing the analogy, it certainly didn’t hurt matters 22 years ago that President Reagan offered President Marcos a refuge in the United States, and he left peacefully. I think this is a tougher situation, to be honest. I don’t know where the tipping point is. What I do know is that it seems pretty clear who is the legitimately elected president of the country. It does seem pretty clear who are the people that want to get Zimbabwe onto a positive course.
It’s amazing that this country is one of the very poorest countries in the world, and yet it was once a breadbasket of southern Africa. It shouldn’t be this way. And the more we can get the people who see a better future willing to stand up—and they’re standing up, one has to admire their courage, it’s incredible—and the more we can get the people who are standing in their way to think that maybe it’s not such a good position to be in, we’ll reach a tipping point. You’ll know when you reach it. I don’t think we can sit outside here and put a mark on the wall and say what it is.