I'm sad to report that our favorite North African despot has turned a little jowly in recent years. He's lost that Neil Diamond Grecian-bust look he had going on in his revolutionary youth, and when he loads himself up with military sashes and decorated pockets and epaulets and that broad-brimmed braided cap, the Colonel resembles nothing so much as an officious constable in a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. Maybe he's doing it on purpose. Maybe it's the new kinder, gentler friendly-guy-next-door Qaddafi. The title of "Colonel", after all, was conferred by the Brits. What kind of guy goes through life wanting to be the Colonel? We associate it with Colonel Sanders, not to mention Colonel Klink. It's the daft blundering guy who never quite makes general.
But then again, I think it's just Muammar's version of modesty--as much as he can muster anyway. He's always struck me as a guy who was not entirely comfortable addressing a Popular Congress, and I suspect he's spirited away a few Cuban Cohibas over the years. In this brave new world of post-Lockerbie Libya--no sanctions, no embargoes and the creation of a Libyan tourism ministry, of all things--I can almost imagine Muammar settling down into a Lazy Boy recliner in his Hush Puppies and channel-surfing from time to time. His recent speeches have even shown a disturbing familiarity with the Internet. The mind boggles: "Hey, whassup, peeps! I can be kinda wild, but I'm really an easygoing guy who likes to cuddle."
Is it possible? Has the Q-Man gone soft? Does the Director of Secret Operations knock on his tent flap in Benghazi and say, "Sir, we have three troublesome émigrés in Paris. Would you like us to send The Squad?" And does Qaddafi then say, "Oh, you know what, that's so seventies. Just run some articles in the Tripoli papers saying they have sex with dogs or something."