This may sound cruel, but the family tragedy of Mao Zedong was the best thing that could have happened to China.
Mao Anying, the firstborn son of Mao Zedong, was groomed to succeed him. When the elder Mao passed away in 1976, the younger Mao would have been in his fifties, had impeccable military and party credentials, and ascended to the leadership position of China.
But luckily for China, Mao Anying was killed in 1950 during the Korea War.
After the younger Mao's death, none of Mao Zedong's other children were fit to succeed him. All of his wives and relatives weren't fitting either. When Mao Zedong died, his appointed non-relative successor Hua Guofeng lacked political clout and could not continue his policies. Instead, reformers, led by Deng Xiaoping, took over.
Deng made great strides in liberalizing China's economy. Politically, China remains closed, but reforms are occurring in a gradualist fashion.
Had Mao Anying succeeded Mao Zedong, there was zero chance he would have been ousted; the political and military loyalty to the late Mao Zedong would have been impossible to overcome.
Mao Anying would most likely have continued his father's failed policies.
For all his brilliance in military strategy and political maneuvering, Mao Zedong was clueless about the economy and unwilling to extend political freedoms. He was an extraordinary revolutionary but a terrible ruler who brought his country to ruins.
In many ways, he is similar to former North Korean dictator Kim Il-sung.
Under Kim Il-sung, North Korea suffered. Under his son Kim Jong-il, the country has suffered even more.
Kim Jong-il spent his first three years in office shrewdly and ruthlessly consolidating power. After that, he worked to maintain it. As for economic and political reforms, Kim Jong-il had no clue and no desire.
Like most hereditary dictators -- whether under an absolute monarchy, Communism, or another form of government - Kim Jong-il predictably worked to perpetuate the dictatorship.
In rare cases, hereditary dictatorships transition to democracy, as in the case of Taiwan under Chiang Ching-kuo, the son of dictator Chiang Kai-shek.
However, among hereditary dictators, cases like Kim Jong-il are far more common. These types of dictatorships usually only end with force or the threat of force.
In Europe, this forceful transition completed a hundred years ago.
In the Middle East, there are still quite a few hereditary dictatorships.
The absolute monarchies like Saudi Arabia don't hide the fact that they're hereditary dictatorships. Meanwhile, countries like Syria use phony elections to accomplish this feat. If dictators like Gaddafi and Mubarak remained in power, they would have tried to introduce hereditary dictatorship using something similar to Syria's method.
Hereditary dictatorship is a horrible form of government.
Once in a while, you're lucky to get benevolent dictator who acts in the best interest of the country and may even willingly give up power. In the majority of cases, however, they're too occupied with keeping their power and enjoying their wealth rather than governing their countries properly.
The fact that democratically elected leaders tend to govern better than hereditary dictators isn't even the most important selling point of democracy. After all, there are plenty of corrupt and incompetent democratically elected officials.
Instead, the beauty of democracy is that unfit leaders can be removed relatively easily.
In the United States, for example, an unwanted president can stay in power for at most four years. (Even before the expiration of his four-year term, he can be impeached). In dictatorships like North Korea, however, an unwanted leader can stay in power for decades.
Currently, the people of the Middle East and North Africa are trying to remove their unwanted dictators and opt for democracy.
Sadly, the West, especially the United States, has been slow and hesitant to support them.
This is extreme hypocrisy for Western countries that claim to believe in democracy.
With the notable exception of Gaddafi, the US backed most of the hereditary dictatorships in the Middle East and North Africa for decades.
Now, it is hesitantly throwing miniscule support behind protestors in these countries only when it becomes embarrassingly apparent that the despots it previously backed will no longer be tolerated in their countries.
When it came to fighting Communism, the US didn't hesitate to pull out all stops and launch full scale ground operations (as in Korea and later Vietnam).
Now, when it comes to democracy in the Middle East and North Africa, the US is laying low.
For once in post-WWII history, the US can go liberate countries that actually want US liberation. Its forces would be welcomed with open arms and be hailed as saviors. Moreover, taking out dictators in the Middle East should be much easier than confronting North Korea, which the US did not hesitate to do during the Cold War.
The excuse some critics use to justify US inaction is that if dictators like Gaddafi are removed, someone worse will take over.
Indeed, US officials used this kind of logic to (privately) justify backing dictators who provided stability and served US foreign policy interests.
However, this better the devil you know than the devil you don't mentality is wrong.
All democracies in the world were born out of uncertainties and risk taking; the argument that democracy may fail in the Middle East can't possibly justify denying these people an attempt at it.
The chances that the Kim Jong-ils of the world will one day be enlightened and turn into Chiang Ching-kuos are just too slim, as are chances that a dicator has no fitting descendents or relatives to succeed him. It doesn't make sense to sit idly by and wait for that day.
It's better to depose the dictators in the Middle East, create a power vacuum, and hope that democracy takes over.
If a full-fledged democracy doesn't fill the power vacuum right away, someone like Deng Xiaoping is still much preferred to someone like Kim Jong-il.
The Middle East is in the midst of a great awakening. The world should take this golden opportunity to dispose as many Kim Jong-ils in the Middle East as possible.