Qaddafi could step down and stay? That's not going to happen.
France's foreign minister says Muammar Qaddafi could remain in Libya after he leaves power. But that's the least likely of all possible outcomes.
Growing efforts to find a negotiated settlement to Libya's civil war got a boost of attention Wednesday, when French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said that Muammar Qaddafi could stay indefinitely in his home country as long as he steps down from power.Skip to next paragraph
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"One of the scenarios effectively envisaged is that he stays in Libya on one condition ... that he very clearly steps aside from Libyan political life," Mr. Juppe told French LCI TV. "A cease-fire depends on Qaddafi committing clearly and formally to surrender his military and civilian roles."
Qaddafi and his powerful son Saif al-Islam have insisted they won't leave the country under any circumstances, so Juppe's comments would appear to be reaching for an acceptable compromise conclusion to an increasingly bloody war (a rebel offensive on the tiny eastern oil town of Brega, for instance, has been stalled for days, with dozens of casualties on both sides). The problem is, of all the outcomes one could imagine in Libya, Qaddafi relinquishing power and living out his days as a free man in Tripoli is the least likely.
The reason why has to do with the depth of hatred for the man among the rebels. There are no similarities between the case of Qaddafi and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, for instance. While corruption flourished under Mubarak and torture was routinely used, executions weren't carried out on the industrial scale of Qaddafi's Libya.
While many young Egyptian protesters would like Mr. Mubarak put on trial, he also has a fair degree of sympathy from the Egyptian public – and the protection of the officer corps, whose military institution is intact and in control. Though there's some momentum for a trial, it's looking like Mubarak will successfully push it off with claims of ill health. That will disappoint many Egyptians and infuriate some, but Mubarak living out his days in Sharm el-Sheikh is something that Egypt by and large is willing to accept.
But Qaddafi? He's a terrifying figure to his subjects after decades of haphazard executions and massacres. Even many of the gleeful political cartoons that erupted on walls across the east within days of his downfall often depicted him as a figure of fear – a vampire, or a ghoul, or the devil.