Utopian Totalitarianism

James Traub describes how the Libyan dictator appealed to many:

Qaddafi did in fact succeed in destroying Libya's political and economic institutions -- though only, of course, to remove obstacles to his own brand of despotism. Arab elites came to view him as a loose cannon and a dangerous crank. And yet his revolutionary language and his open support for violence against Israel and the West made him for a time a popular hero in the Arab world. In A History of Modern Libya, Dirk Vandewalle writes that "to many in Libya and within the region, there was something riveting and audacious about his analyses and his proposed solutions." Qaddafi "spoke the unpalatable truths that others" -- those elites -- "did not dare to articulate." Libya's hero offered deeply satisfying answers to the growing Arab sense of failure.