As much as Khaddafi did learn from the “Saddam in the hole” example there is an important angle of this story that is being ignored and its importance can’t be understated. In a word the angle is soccer.
One thing everyone in the world agrees on is that Khaddafi is obsessed with soccer. This fact goes double for his sons, one of whom is on the roster of a major Italian soccer team. Khaddafi owns large shares of a few top European teams and is reported to watch/attend games constantly.
The World Cup for 2010 has been promised to an African country. It will mark the first time the tournament will be played in Africa and getting the World Cup means that the host nation gets an automatic spot in the field of 32 teams. Getting the World Cup means Khaddafi’s son will either play on and or coach the Libya team and it will signal to the world that Libya has arrived. In soccer it is the ultimate stage and as you know soccer is king in about 98% of the world. It is far bigger than getting the Olympic Games.
If Libya is to have a legitimate shot at getting the World Cup it will need the support of a majority of the regional confederations which vote on the location of the World Cup. Over the past several years the regional confederation which includes the US (CONCEFA) has proved a critical swig vote in determining the location of the World Cup. Without US support Libya stands almost no chance of getting the 2010 World Cup because the European confederation has already indicated that they will back South Africa’s bid (this stems from guilt surrounding Germany’s strong arm tactics to pull the 2006 World Cup away from South Africa with some fancy last minute political maneuvers).
The idea of a Libyan bid would have been a non-starter with the US just days ago but after Khaddafi’s statements the idea of a World Cup in Libya looks possible. Khaddafi will continue to make announcements about Libyan disarmament and in the months /years ahead will distance himself from radical Islam. He might be afraid of ending up in a hole but he also wants to be seen as the leader of Africa. Nothing would help that status more than getting the World Cup.