As I watch the dramatic events unfold in Libya, I can’t help wondering how Muammar al-Qaddafi, a truly bizarre character, ended up ruling Libya and managed to stay in power for 42 years.
Veteran newsman Arnaud De Borchgrave thinks that Qaddafi is simply psychotic – a manic depressive who could “conquer the world in his manic phase and then he got terribly depressed and started accusing people of all sorts of things they’d never done.” He first interviewed Qaddafi shortly after the young captain came to power in 1969, and over the years had 5 more interviews with the Libyan dictator. In this podcast from the Center for Strategic and International Studies De Borchgrave talks about his encounters with Qaddafi and his assessment of the situation in Libya.
For another view, check out this episode of the NPR program Fresh Air. Dirk Vandewalle, an associate professor of government at Dartmouth College, has studied Libya and its mercurial leader for almost 30 years, and he describes how Qaddafi has run his police state, systematically destroying any shred of opposition.
For deeper background, listen to History of the Modern Middle East (iTunes), a course taught by Columbia University historian Richard Bulliet. Bulliet can be a bit difficult to listen to due to his tendency to go off on long tangents, which are sometimes rewarding and sometimes feel like dead ends. Still, he is extremely knowledgeable on his subject and often delivers thoughtful commentary on the main trends of Middle East history.
For even more listening options, check out this post by podcast reviewer Anne at Anne is a Man! He includes links to academic and media analyses that shed light on the continuing turmoil in the Middle East.