Monday, May 3

Muammar Gaddafi, the Lybian dictator, is now coming in from the cold.

After fifteen long, lonely years as an admitted state sponsor of terror--his most sinister effort being Lockerbie--Gaddafi returned to the European summit in Brussels the other week, replete with a wan, tent-weary smile, undeveloped oil reserves ... and quite the nice pair of gun-toting female bodyguards.

So, what is the nature of his reformation, or at least the mailing address of the Dictator's Reform School?

Well, you know the answer: It's less about him and more about us.

George Orwell's dystopia of 1984 depicted a dictionary that lost words every year to reduce uncontrolled thought. History books were constantly being re-written in order to accommodate shifting alliances.

The notion being that, when things go bad, Mr. Dictator (insert name here) was always thus. And when things turn around, he always had it in him to be of help, or vice-versa.

You may recall the U-turns on Noriega, Saddam, Marcos, Stalin, Pinochet, the Shah of Iran ... and even Hitler, embraced by Churchill in the Anglo-German Naval Agreement of 1935. (German dogs were supposed to take a bite of the Bolshevik buttocks first, you see.)

So, why did the Libyan dictator (or, if he's a good guy, we instead call him the Libyan leader) come in from the cold? Was he again cowed by a display of U.S. military might like when America bombed his home in 1986? Or has he just seen God a/k/a McDonald's, Madonna and Michael Eisner?

More likely, it's the combo of economic sanctions and the heat from regional fundamenalists who hate--in the same way that they hated Saddam--rich and secular dictators who worship their own power and privilege. Money and protection are what the West provides.

But why now? Certainly, the undeveloped oil reserves are of interest. And so is the theatre of displaying half-baked Libyan weapons programs. The party line: "We attacked Iraq--and that scared wacky Gaddafi into quitting."

Wrong. It is just that time. That time portrayed in the final words of 1984, where Winston Smith, after resisting, finally looks up and exclaims, "I love Big Brother!"

According to the new history books, Big Brother was loved all along.