March 25, 2011

How Not to Understand Regime Survival in the Arabic-Speaking World

This David Brooks op-ed on Moammar Ghadafi and Libya makes a really broad claim about regime survival based on a single case study. I like David Brooks in part because he takes social science seriously, so he should know better than this. If you look to the countries directly to Libya's left and right on the map, you see examples of recently deposed leaders who managed to survive for quite a long time, thank you very much, as the kind of bland autocrats that Brooks hints are at a disadvantage when compared to Gadhafi. In summary, Gadhafi is crazy, true, but he is still just one guy. You can't base broader conclusions about the durability of regimes on a single oil-rich country of just 6.5m people.