Is it better to be loved or to be feared? The vast majority of us would say the first, which is why we live the kinds of lives that admit friends, trust and the ability to plan for the days when we must pass from this world and leave something behind for those we hold most dear. But there are those who would say the second, and for them an entirely different set of rules apply. A rules set so alien to the rest of us that their lives are ultimately governed by a set of principles the rest of us cannot truly fathom, let alone appreciate.
The death of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi this week hopefully will bring to an end the bloody civil war that has wracked Libya these past few months. While some chapters of the so-called "Arab Spring" have been relatively peaceful, many of them have not. This is one of the most violent, and for many observers, there was both an air of inevitability to it, as well as the sense that it was long overdue.
Though there are dictators who loot the treasury and sneak off to some rich corner of the world to live out their last days in ill-gotten peace, they are few and far between. More common is that the dictator reaps what he sows. It certainly happened to Hussein, who could have left Iraq any time, had his ego permitted him to. But if he had the kind of humility to realize his time was over, he would have had the humility never to have committed his crimes in the first place. In this regard, Gadhafi was the same kind of person. So it came as little surprise that when the end came, Gadhafi was found cowering in a hole, shouting to his captors not to shoot him, all to no avail. The same could very well happen in Syria and Yemen, just as it happened years ago in places like Ceaucescu's Romania, and Mussolini's Italy.
When you are a dictator, you are living on stolen time that becomes an inversion of what life is supposed to be. The dictator cannot plan for the future. He cannot realistically expect to build something for the benefit of his family, for they will share his fate, too. Any effort to create a propserity that will last through the generations is an illusion at best, and a farce at worst. The dictator knows this. Somewhere in the back of his dark and twisted mind, he knows.