The brutal end of Moammar Gadhafi was foretold.
It is an end that despots want to cheat, and some do, as Stalin and Mao did. But Gadhafi became a hunted man, and it was only a matter of time when the hunt for him was over. It was Gadhafi’s misfortune to fall into the hands of his tribal foes, unlike the Iraqi despot.
There is none despised more in the Arab culture than a loser, and Gadhafi turned out to be a loser.
In a culture of tribal loyalties and vendettas, a strong man is feared, and a despot — Gadhafi, Saddam Hussein, Hosni Mubarak, Bashar al-Assad of Syria — puts fear into the hearts of people over whom he rules. Once this fear dissolves, irrespective of how this occurs, the despot turns into a quarry to be hunted.
The irony in this swift reversal of a despot’s fortune comes with anarchy let loose and, as is common in Arab history, of mob rule and vengeance until another despot arrives to establish some sort of order through fear once more.
The cycle then is repeated unless some great power — the Mongol armies, the Ottoman Turks, the European colonial authorities, the U.S. or the former Soviet Union — imposes order directly, or through an intermediary over a people who have made an art of the tribal dictum of “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.”
The end of Gadhafi in Libya is an opening act of a new cycle of tribal ways.
It is the sheer naivete of the contemporary Western elite — perhaps a result of having drunk deep and long the intoxicating brew of multiculturalism — to entertain the idea that mob rule in Tripoli under the banner of the National Transitional Council (NTC) will morph into some sort of democracy.
A few hours before the hunt for Gadhafi ended, Mahmoud Jibril, the head of NTC and acting as the temporary prime minister of Libya, announced he will be resigning soon.
Jibril’s explanation, though vague, indicated that the new Libya is headed into the uncharted waters of tribal rivalries and conflicts that were kept in check for 42 years by the now slain despot. Jibril is a U.S.-trained economist and a technocrat with no stomach for the predictable conflict ahead, nor does he have the tribal resources of guns and money needed to wage this conflict.
It is also predictable that the eventual outcome of who eventually comes out on top in Tripoli will be those better armed, better organized and ideologically most resolute. In other words, Islamists in Libya connected with the al-Qaida network of jihadists, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and funded by Saudi Arabs.
The new despot will proclaim the rule of Sharia, as the Taliban did in Afghanistan after the Soviet army was expelled with Western support.
And the fear of Gadhafi’s thugs will be replaced by the fear of the religious police, and the despot wearing the mantle of Islam will contain anarchy as the cycle of Arab history repeats itself.