Put yourself in the position of Moammar Gaddafi. For years you have been enjoying doing whatever you like with the total wealth of the country, stashing it away by buying large share-holdings in Italian and German companies. Billions and billions more dollars are available in the oil reserves. Western oil companies queue up to give you this unearned wealth and the power to do mischief that goes with it. Meanwhile you have brought up your sons with the idea that they are going to succeed you, and founded a Gaddafi dynasty to enjoy this money. There is nobody and nothing that counts in the country except you and your sons. In fact it isn’t really a country at all, just a bunch of tribes that you have been careful to leave disorganized and stuck in the old ways.
You have interfered successfully abroad by supporting Irish terrorists, Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, and other African dictators — and killed Westerners by bombing planes and nightclubs. The United States has accepted blood money for American citizens you murdered. Sen. John McCain called you “an interesting man” and Tony Blair is happy to give you multiple embraces and photo-ops. The United Nations elected your Libya to the Human Rights Council.
Whatever you do, then, has never had any bad consequences for you. The tiny number of men with the capacity and will to challenge you are dead or in exile. In 1996 you had the opposition cleared away by murdering about 1,200 political prisoners in Abu Salim prison. And now suddenly, all because of a lack of dictatorial discipline in Tunisia and Egypt, a bunch of people are out in your streets, shouting against you and wanting all the wonderful things you’ve reserved for yourself and your sons. In the same position, the feeble Ben Ali in Tunis and the sick Mubarak in Cairo threw their hand in. The alternative is to fly in African mercenaries (just in case the local security forces hesitate to obey your orders) and open fire on what you think is a rabble from tribes you have always despised anyhow.
Nobody knows how many hundreds, perhaps thousands, have already been gunned down in Libya, or how many more will be. Once you have shown that you are capable of killing 1,200 men in prison, you are a committed criminal and will certainly go as deep into further crime as you think fit.
Speaking for myself now, I think that addafi is unlikely to slip out of the country like other Arab dictators. It is a case of kill or be killed. Whatever happens, the harm he has done Libya will extend. Either he reasserts himself through superior violence and punishes everyone he suspects of being behind the uprising, or he is himself somehow left for dead. In the latter case, there is no successor, no institution to assume the role of governance, and the horrors of anarchy are the sole prospect.