Despite the elaborate theater going on in Tripoli, there is no shortage of true believers in Qaddafi or his regime here. Even away from the official flag-waving loyalists who attend events set up for foreign eyes, they announce themselves.
Unprompted, one Libyan businessman says: “Tell the world about Muammar Qaddafi: He is our oxygen. We cannot live without him. We cannot breathe without him.”
But signs of discontent have erupted across Libya since mid-February, when protests began and eastern regions rebelled en masse against Qaddafi’s nearly 42-year rule.
There appears to be no lukewarm support for the Qaddafi: only pure devotion or hatred. The confusion and opacity may stem from the top with Qaddafi himself, and his unique style of rule.
It has made Libya a place where being targeted by more than 170 cruise missiles has been greeted in the capital’s main square with a perpetual, official party and frequent celebratory gunfire.
Qaddafi has a “borderline personality” that “often swings from intense anger to euphoria,” says Jerrold Post, a political psychologist at George Washington University, in a recent analysis in the journal Foreign Policy.
“Under his often ‘normal’ facade, he is quite insecure and sensitive to slight. His reality testing is episodically faulty,” writes Dr. Post, who founded a center for analyzing personality and political behavior during a 21-year career at the CIA.
“While most of the time Qaddafi is ‘above the border’ and in touch with reality, when under stress he can dip below it and his perceptions can be distorted and his judgment faulty,” writes Post. “And right now, he is under the most stress he has been under since taking over the leadership of Libya…. He does sincerely cling to the idea that his people all love him.”