Muammar Gaddafi has probably been studied by the West more than any other post-war leader, yet, judging by the way that he is being treated by the anti Gaddafi, pro-rebel Coalition, it is plain to see that to them, he is still an enigma.
Over the years, I have had contact with many corporate dictators and the behaviours which they exhibit bear a striking resemblance to those of Gaddafi and the only other comparable despot within the last few years – Saddam Hussein. One thing that I can report with certainty: they cannot be changed. Their behaviours are hard-wired.
Dictators rule by fear but ironically, they themselves are ruled by their own fears. Outwardly, they appear to have developed the symptoms of paranoia and as their career progresses, they believe (quite rightly) that there are fewer and fewer people that they can trust. Those feelings of universal mistrust eventually put them onto a self-destructive path which always leads to either their death or foreign exile. There is NO retirement home for them!
Gaddafi probably employs food tasters, doubles, sleeps at numerous locations and has all visitors searched. He definitely sleeps with a gun under his pillow because he constantly senses that it is only a matter of time before he is assassinated.
A dictator will do ANYTHING to remain in power – even if it means a diminution is status and financial or power-deals with the opposition. The overriding aspect and driving force of the dictator’s existence is POWER and its trappings. Too often, a dictator gives the impression of a messianic complex but in reality, compromise and compliance are often not too deep beneath the surface – if approached correctly. Having said that, they often genuinely do believe that they are on a divine mission. That belief can be so fundamental to the dictator’s makeup that they are willing to sacrifice themselves in order to preserve their legacy for their descendants.
Whenever the West is upset by a dictator – even a benevolent one, they begin to think “regime change ” and “democracy”. The propaganda machine grinds into gear and soon the stock phrases are deployed: “massive violence”, “murdering his own people”, “he’s mad”, “….but he’s a survivor”, “dangerous if cornered”, “talent for dividing his enemies”, “isolated”, “iron rule” .
Currently, the stock phrases are being applied to Gaddafi but if you think back just a few years, you will recall exactly the same phrases being slung at Saddam Hussein, as they will be to Assad of Syria.
Hitler, Stalin, Saddam, Gaddafi, Nasser and many others all used violence in order to retain power – although they didn’t always kill their enemies. For instance, Saddam would force his enemies to watch videos of their wives being raped or their children tortured. It was rumoured that Idi Amin would cut slices of flesh off his victims or their relatives and eat bits in front of them. Terrorism in its purest form.
Often it is most potent when the victim is not killed but instead given such an appalling story to tell that just hearing the stories keeps others in line.
Middle Eastern dictators are currently in the limelight and their opponents are right to be suspicious of promises of reform because in spite of the fact that they may introduce superficial reforms, their inability to trust anyone makes it impossible for the dictator to work with anyone else apart from close friends and family.
Arab dictators sincerely believe in the moral weakness of the West and tend to reinforce that belief with demonstrations of their own piety in order to create a religious bond and empathy with their own people. Their belief in the superiority of Arab Civilisation is absolute. They see themselves as warriors defending not-only their country but their faith against Crusaders. The same Crusaders who used to raid their lands every few hundreds of years but who nowadays arrive not-only with increasing regularity but with bigger and more powerful weapons.
Arab dictators such as Gaddafi know that the “soft” West will try to avoid the killing of civilians – hence the concept of the “human shield”. Tanks and guns are secreted in residential areas in the sure knowledge that NATO will be too squeamish to risk blowing-up “innocent civilians”.
In many ways, fighting a dictator such as Gaddafi is an unequal struggle. He believes that he holds the moral, religious and “terror” aces. The “infidels”, “Americans and their Zionist friends” or just plain NATO are warmongers who are “acting illegally”. He may have a point. Gaddafi’s style of leadership is nothing new. He has been on the throne for 43 years and his current enemies have been perfectly aware of his methods for all of that time. They have known of his involvement in many atrocities – from Lockerbie to the various IRA bombings. Yet, the West tolerated him to such an extent that he became lauded as one who had made such progress that in 1988 he initiated the annual $250,000 Swiss-based Al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights. The first recipient was Nelson Mandela.
Less than one year ago, Libya was elected by a majority of its fellow U.N. members to serve on the United Nations’ Human Rights Council.
What he sees is the West siding with a bunch of protesting hooligans and terrorists who have no mandate or alternative to the Gaddafi regime. Protestors who began their campaign as a copycat version of the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings and who, by the simple expedient of shouting “democracy and freedom of speech” have managed to persuade NATO to bomb what, until a couple of months ago was a friendly nation.
Many have learned that all they have to shout is “Democracy” and the Americans will come running with the rest of those spoiling for a fight trailing behind them.
Gaddafi knows that when the clarion call “DEMOCRACY!” is shouted loud enough, it distorts during its journey through the ether and take on an altogether different sound: