Joseph Stalin wrote the playbook for dictators. His rules remain as current today as when he developed them in the 1930s. Clearly, Colonel Gaddafi could not follow them in full. If so, he’d be alive today, but some matters were outside of his control. Bashar Assad must be feverishly reviewing Gaddafi’s last months to make sure he does not end up with a bullet to the head himself.
As political scientist Beuno de la Mesquita has shown, dictatorial regimes have long lives. The overthrow of a dictator is actually a rare event. It is even rarer for dictators unconstrained by morality or convention.
The unconstrained dictator does all that is necessary to stay in power He will poison whole communities with chemical weapons (Saddam Hussein), shell cities into rubble with the inhabitants trapped inside (Hafez Assad), or order the wanton killing by quota of a million citizens (Stalin, Pol Pot).