What would be the easiest - but significant - dictatorship for a U.S. billionaire to start?

Egypt got me thinking. A billionaire would clearly have enough money to fund and run a coup, whether non-violent, relatively non-violent (riots with mostly property damage, or an all out military coup d’état. At minimum, the billionaire could pull it off with mercenaries like Blackwater with plenty of air support. It could be done.

But what of the U.S. or international consequences. Sure, you could declare yourself dictator of your own scrap of land somewhere in the Pacific, but no one cares. What government could you topple, and take over as dictator for life without suffering too much international retaliation - mostly in military form, but we can count embargoes too.

So imagine our hypothetical U.S. billionaire liquidates his assets, cashes out so to speak, and wants his own country. He’s driven by ego much more than looking for a profitable section of land - natural resources, et al. ** How big can he go and get away with it?** Toppling an existing dictatorship seems like the best route. You certainly wouldn’t want to attack a democratic country, for instance. African dictators seem ripe for the picking.

Haiti seems like a likely target. They’ve been pretty corrupt for the last, oh, 400 years or so, and the poorest nation in the North American continent. Hell, a billionaire coming in with food, water, shelter and some hired goons from Haliburton for the populace could probably even be elected after getting rid of whatever annoying dictator is already there.

I was just thinking this the other day, actually.

I have invisioned a landing of my hired guns and support persons at the southern tip of the region known as Somalia. We march north, cleaning out bandits and warlords.

I’m not there on humanitarian missions or anything, I’m founding my dynasty.

The support folks are behind the lines, building/repairing infrastructure, imposing order, and generally bringing things online.

Once the people figured out that I was on the up and up, would they support me?

Oh, that’s easy. You either take some country nobody cares about like Haiti or Somalia; or, if you don’t want that, you take an important country and declare loudly your allegiance to the US. (Being an American would probably help).
Then you declare that you only took over to keep the radical Islamists/ pirates / warlords from power, and ask the US govt. to give you a little bit military aid, for which you will continue to prevent the terrorists/ pirates/ whomever from attacking Israel / shipping/ whatever.

You just need to update the internal enemy every 5 to 10 years to whatever war the US is currently fighting; you don’t want to miss when they switch from the War on Drugs (and drugdealers) to the War on Terror (and the terrorists).

Any place you can topple that easily isn’t worth owning. Haiti? Somalia? Nobody’s ego is so big that they would want those hellholes.

If I was a billionaire, I’d look to taking over Aruba or Barbados. Or hire competent mercs and take over the Maldives.

The problem with Aruba or Barbados or most other Caribbean islands is that they tend to be protectorates or territories of much larger countries. (The Netherlands and The UK in this case.)

My son’s plan to raise an army and install himself as King of New Zealand has the same fatal flaw. His plan’s other major flaw is that he’s seven.

Wasn’t Margaret Thatcher’s son involved in some scheme a few years back to take over Equatorial Guinea?

That’s the thing though… Somalia actually has resources, as does Haiti. They just aren’t exploited properly due to incompetent governance.

Probably not, w/r/t Somalia. In order to repair the infrastructure and not have it immendiately undone you’d have to shoot anyone who looks at you sideways, which will make you many enemies. You’d be able to take over the country, of course, given enough billions, and the populace will eventually start to come to your side (okay, maybe trillions, see: Iraq.)

But most people wouldn’t support you except in the Moe Syzclak way of not actively wishing you any specific harm.

I was thinking Cuba. I wonder how that would work out internationally? Pledging allegiance to the usa seems like it would help. I suppose a lot of the reaction depends on the level of atrocities.

Any half-decent private military group could oust the Mugabe regime; indeed, the most stinging indignity to the large international community of Rhodesian expatriates displaced after 1979 is that they lost their nationhood to such an incompetent foe (as a result of political bullying and sanctions, not actual military defeat.)

Huge portions of the former Rhodesian army went for-hire after the end of the 1970s and many served with distinction in the various African conflicts. A seasoned, multi-racial force with exceptionally high morale, the Rhodesian mercenary contingent was united ideologically by the bond of brotherhood forged in the Bush War, and would have had a prime opportunity to re-take Salisbury (Harare) had they been directed by a charismatic commander.

Many of these “Rhodies” are still around, and with enough manpower, they could easily launch an assault on Mugabe and wipe the floor with him and his goons in a few days. After this, a Rhodesian state could be re-established. It couldn’t be like the old racially segregated Rhodesia, as the rest of the world would not stand for it; there would have to be a more equitable power sharing between blacks and whites.

This country was once the bread basket of Africa - now it’s the basket case of Africa. But the natural resources are tremendous. And it has enough history behind it to take advantage of an ideological movement and restore it to its heyday. If I were a billionaire with a private military, I don’t think I could resist making a go of it.

There’s actually a bit of precedent for this – James Brooke, a British adventurer did something very similar. In the late 1830’s he bought a warship with an inheritance, interceded in a war and ended up the first white rajah of Sarawak. He started with 30,000 pounds which even in the 1830’s was a lot more modest than a billion dollars today, but the principle seems sound.
A lot of countries have a much smaller budget for military expenditures than a billion but most of them probably have big friendly neighbors who would get irritated if you started taking liberties. So aside from the aforementioned hellholes, there’s not a lot of ripe picking out there.

If you have sufficient patience, I think your best bet might be bribery or even a simple financial takeover. Find a small country with no GDP to speak of, start up some factories, become a local hero, turn the whole country into your factory town and then get yourself elected King for Life.

If you haven’t already read it, I’d sugget reading Fredrick Forsythe’s The Dogs of War, which deals with this very question. In the novel, an English billionaire hires a mercenary army to take over a tiny African hellhole of a country and install a puppet dictator who will then give the Englishman sole rights to exploit a vast platinum deposit in the backcountry.

The mercenary leader plans & executes the coup perfectly and brilliantly, but in a surprise doublecross guns down the Englishman’s tinhorn puppet and turns the country over to the leader of a landless and downtrodden African tribe, to establish a homeland for his people. The billionaire is left holding the bag for the the coup, with nothing much to show for it. He will still be allowed to mine the platinum, but instead of getting it for next to nothing will be forced to pay full market value. These monies will be used to build roads and schools, to develope the country for the benefit of its new owners.

In the last pages of the book it is revealed that the mercenary leader is terminally ill, with only weeks to live. The crossing of his employer was a result of his wish to accomplish a last good deed, to atone for a lifetime of bloodshed & violence. A rather quicky ending to a riveting story. If one is actually planning the takeover of a country, they might take away a couple of lessons from The Dogs of War:

A) Planning a coup, even for a small insignificant country is a hugely expensive and risky proposition.

B) Even the best-laid plans can go badly wrong.

C) One must always be absolutely sure of the loyalty of the people he hires to do the dirty work.


Why settle for a two-bit country like those mentioned above. The US looks pretty easy to takeover, with a shadow government put in place. I’m sure it’s being considered.

If Zimbabwe is such a pushover, how did Mugabe and his goons kick out these super-tough soldiers in the first place?

How do you think South Africa is going to respond to a team of mercenaries taking over Zimbabwe? Probably something along the lines of “Thanks for getting rid of an embarrassing relic, now please move aside while we install our preferred client government.”

Also note that taking over Harare and hanging Mugabe’s cronies from the lampposts is not the same as taking over the country, nor is it the same as governing the country.

A billion dollars isn’t going to get you very far; it would cover the cost of a Presidential campaign and that’s about it.

It wasn’t that simple…the insurrection forces were a joke compared to the Rhodesian military. Sometimes they’d be able to pull off a terrorist-style attack like the infamous Viscount aircraft shooting, but usually they’d just get slaughtered in the hundreds by the Selous Scouts and the RLI. If that war had gone on, the various rebel factions would certainly have been defeated militarily - it was the UN sanctions and pressure from the UK which forced Smith into relinquishing his government.

So they won the battles and lost the war, like lots of other armies throughout history, including the United States in Vietnam.

If sanctions from the UN and the UK were enough to bring down the already existing government of Rhodesia, what do you think is going to happen when these ex-Rhodesian mercenaries occupy Harare?

And note that this was all 30 years ago. It’s one thing for people to fight like hell to preserve their privileged way of life, including the power structure and tools of repression built up since the 1890s. It’s another for an army of 50 and 60 year old geezers to invade a country they haven’t lived in for 30 years to try to re-establish white rule.

And it’s one thing to imagine that Mugabe’s regime is tattered enough that one or two good pushes and it will topple over. It’s another to imagine that the guys who push over Mugabe are going to be the guys running the country afterward. Without a domestic power base how is that going to work? Note that the United States, after spending hundreds of billions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan still hasn’t pacified either country.

But that’s not what I’m suggesting (or trying to debate) - I didn’t say that everyone involved in this totally hypothetical scenario would be graying geezers, only that a few original “Rhodies” with experience in Africa in the late 1970s would be involved. All the rest of the troops could be anyone - we’re hypothesizing a billionaire with the capability to hire the best private armies money can buy.

I doubt the situation would be much like Afghanistan or Iraq. The Taliban and Hussein both had bases of support among the populace, who continued to chip at the US troops after their leadership was driven off. I don’t think Mugabe enjoys any kind of support among his people, who are starving and desperate and who have to spent 100-billion-dollar bank notes to buy an apple. He has a clique of cronies around him, and that’s about it.

But the current Iraqi insurgency isn’t composed of Saddam’s cronies either.

Like I said, the mercenary army marches into Harare, storms the presidential palace, and hangs Mugabe and his cronies from the nearest lamppost, to the cheers and/or apathy of the general population.

And then what? Five minutes after Mugabe reaches room temperature the quaint natives will start to get tired of the white guys. And no country in the world will recognize the mercenary junta, so if you’re worried about sanctions and the disapproval of the UK that brought down the white supremacist Rhodesian government in the 70s, well, that’s gonna look indulgent compared to the reaction in 2011.

It’s not enough to drag the current leader out of the presidential palace and put a bullet in his brain. That’s the easy part. The hard part is the aftermath.