This is very good, if anyone feels compelled to pay a quid to read the whole thing:

The Times – Gaddafi’s model dictatorship is turning to dust, by Ben Macintyre

But so far from being insane, Libya’s ruler of 41 years has clung to power in a way that is consistent, effective and entirely ruthless. Colonel Gaddafi’s rule, even if it is over by the time you read this, has been one of the longest in modern history, and in many ways has been a textbook dictatorship, surviving by assiduously shoring up the twin pillars of every tyranny: the cult of personality and artificial fear…

No dictator of modern times can match him in the calculated choreography of power: the outfits and the outbursts are all part of an act to keep Libyans awed and afraid.

When Gaddafi demands to pitch his tent in Central Park, or files a formal motion with the UN to abolish Switzerland, or summons 500 Italian call girls at least 5ft 7in tall to be presented with copies of the Koran, the world may snort with derision, but in Libya it is all part of the only authorised narrative: the great revolutionary leader standing up for his country against the arrogant imperialists.


The coup that brought him to power was bloodless; his rule has been anything but. In the 1970s he personally ordered public executions and attended the hanging of students who dared to protest. In 1980 Libya sent hit squads to kill dissidents abroad. More than 1,200 political prisoners were massacred in Abu Salim prison, Tripoli, in 1996. While bankrolling international terrorism, he mercilessly crushed internal Islamist opposition.

So far from being irrational, Gaddafi has consistently displayed ferocious political acumen. He calculated that the oil-thirsty West would indulge him when he renounced terrorism and the quest for weapons of mass destruction, and he was right. He calculated that the return of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, would hugely boost his domestic popularity whatever the international outcry, and he was right again.

But suddenly the fear on which his regime is built has begun to crumble, at astonishing speed. A new generation of Libyans, drawn together by the internet, no longer fear coffee-drinking Westerners, Islamic fundamentalists or the foreign media. They neither recall nor resent the grim days of Italian colonial rule. They know that Libya, a country of six million people sitting on a lake of oil, should be as wealthy as the small Gulf states. They want more freedom and fewer pot holes. Above all, they know what has happened in Tunisia and Egypt, and so does Gaddafi.

That ties in to something that Hitchens wrote about the Egyptian version of this revolution, that people can take just about anything but what they can’t take is being embarrassed. And, I mean, what kind of a fool must you feel like living in a squalid little third-rate desert tract with a historical wealth, oil wealth and population size of Libya’s.

Full list of his many AKAs gotten here.