Latter-Day Sultans

Armed with pitch-perfect talking points for the Facebook generation, a clique of fortunate sons in the Middle East is set to take over their fathers' sclerotic dictatorships. But this is not regime change. Monarchy is back.

Issue: July-Aug 2010

AS YOU drive through the streets of Tripoli, Muammar el-Qaddafi, Libya’s Brotherly Leader and Guide to the Revolution, beams down upon you. From huge billboards to kitschy key chains, the Leader, as Libyans call him, is everywhere. Indeed, for Libyans it is impossible to imagine life without him: Qaddafi took power over forty years ago and is now the world’s longest-serving nonroyal ruler. In his prime, he championed a host of revolutionary causes and implemented what he declared to be an Islamic form of socialism mixed with Arab nationalism. Qaddafi even christened the term jamahiriya—“state of the masses”—to describe the Libyan system. Yet despite this mix of égalité and fraternité, Libya looks set to become, in practice, a hereditary monarchy with Qaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, as the dauphin.

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