Muammar Gaddafi has got to be shaking in his boots tonight. With the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the Libyan dictator must be feeling the psychological pressure – knowing that the United States military could take action against him personally at any time if it learns where he is hiding. His only hope is that the United States believes that it has no more reason to kill him than it does any other number of dictators in the world. But that may be a vain hope since President Barack Hussein Obama has pinned his own personal popularity to success in Libya – which represents a third front in the war on terror.
Scenes of the American public celebrating in Times Square and in front of the White House are bound to give Gaddafi pause as he considers his next move against the Libyan rebels.
Gaddafi has a history of seeking to preserve his own life. The violent dictator famously decided to rid his country of weapons of mass destruction a number of years ago when he correctly surmised that hanging on to his arsenal of such weapons would point the tip of the spear of western militaries against Libya. He ended his nuclear weapons program and this move resulted in the lifting of UN sanctions in 2003.
Furthermore, Gaddafi has tasted the wrath of the United States before. In 1986 President Ronald Reagan ordered a bombing attack against Libya, including the targeting of his personal compound in Tripoli in response to Libyan-inspired attacks at the Rome and Vienna airports, the Gulf of Sidra incident, and the La Belle nightclub bombing in West Berlin. Operation El Dorado Canyon involved joint U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps air-strikes against Libya on April 15, 1986.
Now Gaddafi knows he is being targeted by the U.S. once again, despite official U.S. denials. There is not hiding that fact given the attack hours ago that allegedly killed Gaddafi’s youngest son and several of his grandchildren.
It will be interesting and instructive in the coming days to see if Gaddafi ups his inflammatory rhetoric against the United States or seeks to sue for peace with NATO. Whichever direction Gaddafi now takes will speak volumes about the level of concern Gaddafi has for his personal safety.