Why did Colonel Muammar Gaddafi fail to acknowledge his own warning, which he once gave to other Arab leaders, after Saddam Hussein was executed? He warned that what had happened was a serious danger, and that other Arab leaders could be next. Today it is Gaddafi’s turn, as international coalition forces have now taken measures to overthrow his regime, and kill or capture its leader.
Gaddafi has done nothing at state level to change the way in which is perceived by the countries of the region and the world. He did not learn a lesson from what happened in Iraq, despite the fact that Saddam’s lesson was clear, given that the Iraqi dictator refused to reconcile with his people, and considered ruling with an iron fist to be the best way to maintain his authority. Saddam Hussein made a terrible mistake after he was granted a window of opportunity, having been given a long time to revise his policy after his defeat in the Kuwait war, and even when international sanctions and restrictions were placed upon him. Yet he continued to provoke foreign countries, and continued to harm his own people through prosecution and persecution, instead of pursuing a more flexible policy, both internally and abroad. The reason is that dictators are permanently set in their ways. Gaddafi seemed terrified after Saddam Hussein was executed, and considered the incident to be a message for him and his peers. He did not hide his concern, warning other Arab leaders that their turn could be next.
Colonel Gaddafi had many opportunities to transform into a conventional leader, and stop his bloody onslaught against his opponents, and all those who disagreed with him throughout the world. He had an enormous state income at his disposal, and is probably still in possession of a sizable amount of funds, which he stored when sanctions were imposed on his country, and afterwards, until Libya was considered at least the third richest Arab regime. As a result, he promised to alleviate the suffering of the Libyan citizens, improve living conditions and government services, and abolish unjust laws. He promised a transition towards a conventional regime, exercising tolerance towards the opposition, with an expanding domain of genuine participation, instead of the farcical talk of popular committees, and the rule of the people, and that Gaddafi was just the ceremonial figurehead of Libya, without any real power. No one believed this nonsense for one minute.
Gaddafi’s difficult crisis has proven that it is almost impossible for a dictator to learn lessons. Saddam Hussein did not learn from his defeat in 1991, and in the subsequent years he continued to be preoccupied with revenge, rather than reconciliation and change. Gaddafi should have taken notice when his intelligence staff were arrested and tried for the Lockerbie bombing, and he was forced to pay huge financial compensation. However, this did not stop him maneuvering and conspiring, and continuing to with his old ruling system, as if the world had not changed around him.
He failed to learn his lesson even in the early hours following the adoption of the UN Security Council resolution, authorizing the use of force to neutralize Gaddafi’s troops. Instead, he embarked on another error when his planes attacked Benghazi, prompting international forces to quickly declare war upon him, with global popular support.
Now is Gaddafi’s last chance, if he can find a peaceful way out of this situation. However, it does not seem like he will be given this opportunity.