Goodbye, Qaddafi: Why these sorts of dictators are done

Flamboyant dictators like Col. Qaddafi are a vanishing breed in a world where even their own citizens can now see how abnormal they are.

Waleed el Mehelemy/REUTERS
Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi salutes his armed forces during a parade in Tripoli last year. The era of dictators and personality cults is rapidly coming to a close.

Muammar Qaddafi is one of a handful of old-school dictators left -- the kind that combine charisma with paranoia, flowery gestures with pitiless repression.

Saddam Hussein was cut from that cloth. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Kim Jong-il of North Korea are as well. You can usually tell the type by the personality cults they encourage, the rambling speeches they deliver, the elaborate myths romanticizing their revolutionary accomplishments, and the huge photos and monuments to their greatness erected throughout the country.

In an increasingly interconnected world, even the long-repressed subjects of these dictators are now able to see how abnormal their ruler is. Even if Col. Qaddafi succeeds inflicting more violence on his own people in an attempt to cling to power, he is likely to have lost both the eastern half of the country, which is now under rebel control, and whatever residual regard Libyans had for him up to this point.

It is hard to imagine a Qaddafi cult being reestablished after the brutality he has inflicted on his own people.

Wherever Libya ends up after the dust settles, its next leader -- indeed, the next generation of leaders throughout the Middle East -- likely will be low-profile and consensus-oriented rather than flamboyant and egotistical.

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