For players of the decades-old parlor game of divining succession in despotic Arab regimes, one rule never varied: The current dictator would personally choose his successor, almost always selecting one of his sons to head the regime after his death. Until this week, that dynastic pattern seemed certain to apply to Libya's Col. Moammar Gadhafi, whose sons have spent years seeking their flamboyant father's favor and jockeying for position within that most peculiar of regimes.
The eccentric, histrionic and often-buffoonish Gadhafi has provided four decades of outrage, disbelief and even entertainment for outside observers. For those living under his rule, however, his despotic regime has meant life in a surreal twilight zone, controlled by the whims of a repressive ruler.
It has also meant enduring Gadhafi's seven sons, each unique and unlike the others, but all sharing one common trait: a sense of entitlement borne not out of personal virtue or achievement, but emanating solely from the fact that their father is the country's ruler.