The Libyan uprising has brought the dictator of Libya, Moammar Qaddafi, back into the spotlight. Still referred to as Colonel Qaddafi, some have noticed with curiosity that the Libyan leader has not gotten a promotion in about 40 years. One might have expected a maniacal tyrant with a thirst for power to have provided himself a higher rank since taking over the country four decades ago.
In 1969, when Qaddafi usurped control of the country, he was then Captain Qaddafi. Upon assuming power Qaddafi accepted the title of Colonel and has remained so, at least in media reports, ever since. So what is with this lack of upward mobility?
There is no set answer as to why Qaddafi’s position has apparently been a dead-end gig. The State Department does not even know why Qaddafi has maintained his lower title for the past decades. When pressed a Department spokesman advised asking Qaddafi directly.
“He was an army officer when he gained control of the country. That is a good question to ask him,” the spokesman told The Daily Caller.
With Qaddafi currently unreachable, theories abound – the most prevalent being that it is a contrived ploy to be closer to the people.
Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, said that his attachment to “colonel” likely is an attempt to distance himself from the “establishment” generals he overthrew in the 60s.
“[I]n the era that Col Q took over, generals were overthrown. They weren’t the rebels, they were the establishment. And Col Q always viewed himself as an upstart,” she wrote in an email to TheDC. “On the other hand, he has given himself all sorts of other fancy titles, so I wouldn’t call him modest. Only insane.”
Hudson Institute president Herb London and Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, surmised that it is Qaddafi’s attempt to appear more common.
“It is part of a larger conceit that he is not the leader, that Libya is governed by the masses (‘jamahiriya’), and so on,” Pipes told TheDC.
Qaddafi’s “Green Book,” which outlined the dictator’s philosophical underpinnings and focus on the need for the masses to be in control, bolsters such theories.
“After the successful establishment of the era of the republics and the beginning of the era of the masses, it is unreasonable that democracy should mean the electing of only a few representatives to act on behalf of great masses,” the “Green Book” reads. “This is an obsolete theory and an outdated experience. The whole authority must be the people’s.”
Former United States deputy undersecretary of defense, Jed Babbin, noted that in Libya he really has no official title. Libyans often refer to him as “Brother Leader” or “Guide.”
“Qaddafi holds no official title. Only the western media refer to him as ‘Col. Qaddafi,’” Babbin told TheDC.
Of course there is always the fact that Qaddafi might like the semi-alliterative nature of the two words. A tyrannical dictator with a poetic flare….Something to think about.