Republicans sometimes ask: “What would Reagan do? Christians ask: “What would Christ have done in this situation.” Dictators like Qadaffi, Saddam Hussein, and Kim Il Sung could ask the same question of their patron saint: Josif Stalin. Stalin wrote the playbook for dictators – how to grab and hold onto power. In actuality, unconstrained dictators, of the Stalin type like Qadaffi, do not need his advice. They became brutal dictators by being the best specialists in political terror. They intuitively understand what Stalin would have advised.
Qadaffi’s “victory within 48 hours” appears to have been snatched away at the last minute by the remarkable U.N resolution to establish a no fly zone and apply necessary force to save civilians. Qadaffi’s road to survival has unexpectedly become rockier. What would we expect the Qadaffi/Stalin dictator to do next?
First, like Stalin, Qadaffi would be most frightened of the threat of external force. Stalin signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop non-aggression pact at great cost to head off Hitler’s troops. Qadaffi, likewise, will do anything necessary to head off any foreign intervention. He will promise to abide by a cease fire. He will assure the outside world that he values civilian life, and will do everything necessary to protect his people “who love him” He will continue to hold territory his loyalists occupy and will probe only at the margins – never giving outside forces a reason to act.