Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi has lost control of much of his country to rebels, been slapped by tough global sanctions, and had his foreign assets frozen, yet he's still survived longer than ousted Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. In fact, he seems to be making up for lost ground. What's the secret to Gadhafi's tenacity? Here, five theories:
1. Key tribes and military factions are still loyal
The international community has turned on Gadhafi, but "he retains enough support among critical tribes and institutions, including parts of the army and the air force," to retain control of Tripoli (at least) "for some time to come," says Steven Erlanger in The New York Times. Gadhafi has purposefully channeled more money and better weapons to the parts of the military led by family and loyal tribes, and starved the eastern units, which he always knew might rebel. The fighting "could go on a long time," says military analyst Shashank Joshi.
2. He's fine with a Libya "torn apart by civil war"
Egypt's Mubarak and Tunisia's Ben Ali tried to hold on to their power, but they at least "seemed to take seriously concerns about plunging their countries into a civil war," says Dan Murphy in The Christian Science Monitor. The same can't be said of Gadhafi. In fact, "almost since Day 1, Gadhafi has not only warned of civil war, but also seemed to invite it." Everything he's said and done seems "practically calculated to turn his own people further against him." It's hard to unseat an unhinged despot who puts power above people.
3. Gadhafi still controls the money
Gadhafi has the upper hand because "he has all the weapons and the money," says one rebel leader in Benghazi. How much? It's a little murky, but he's "said to control over $150 billion," says Ibrahim Warde in The Huffington Post. New international sanctions will deprive him of some of that, say Howard Schneider and Steven Mufson in The Washington Post, but the $110 billion in foreign reserves managed by the Central Bank of Libya should tide over the regime for about three years.
4. The international community won't step in
Some rebel leaders have come to the realization "that people power alone may not be enough to dislodge their nation's autocratic leader from his last remaining strongholds," say Leila Fadel and Liz Sly in The Washington Post, and they want help. The forces loyal to Gadhafi seem to have recovered from the "initial shock of the sudden uprising," and the rebels say that to ensure Gadhafi's failure, foreign powers must impose a no-fly zone or even conduct target airstrikes on loyalist targets. The U.S. at least seems cool to the idea, though it is moving warships toward Libya.
5. There's no viable replacement for him
If Gadhafi goes, Libyans and outside analysts are terrified that he'll take as many people and pipelines with him as he can, says Ariel Zirulnick in The Christian Science Monitor. But there's also "no clear idea of who would come next." Gadhafi planned it that way, working hard to ensure that nobody, including any of his sons, is waiting in the wings. There's real, scary "confusion about who, if anyone, could step into the vacuum."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- This is what happens when Republicans actually enact their radical agenda
- How I dug myself out of debt — and stayed that way
- Russia is stealthily threatening America with nuclear war
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- 13 Urban Outfitters controversies
- Is 'feminism' just another word for 'liberalism'?
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- 10 things you need to know today: September 17, 2014
- 11 weeknight dinners you can make without a recipe
Subscribe to the Week