Odds: 5 to 1
Pros: They’ve put out the welcome mat. This East African nation was the first to suggest that Gaddafi could plop down inside its borders. “We have soft spots for asylum-seekers,” a spokesman for Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said this past week. “Gaddafi would be allowed to live here if he chooses to do so.” Museveni, who has been in power for 25 years, has condemned the NATO-led mission in Libya.
Cons: Uganda has signed on to the International Criminal Court. The court’s chief prosecutor has said he will decide whether to indict Gaddafi by May. If Museveni ever wavered in his resolve, Gaddafi could quickly become a bargaining chip. And the last thing a former dictator wants is his day in court.
Odds: 15 to 1
Pros: When it struck oil a few years ago, this tiny West African country became the world’s newest petrol-powered dictatorship. With his coffers overflowing, President Teodoro Obiang Nguema doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. He also may be sympathetic to aging strongmen. In fact, if Gaddafi were forced to flee, Obiang would replace him as Africa’s longest-serving dictator.
Cons: Alas, Obiang may actually care what people think. In 2008, he tried to fund a UNESCO prize — in his own name — for scientists who make contributions to the “quality of human life.” (The global organization ultimately declined to award the prize.) He may also be craving respect for his chairmanship of the African Union. Money may not buy respect, but taking in Gaddafi would hardly lower the price tag.
Odds: 25 to 1
Pros: Tunisia’s Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali is already holed up there. Pakistan’s Nawaz Sharif had an extended stay. And Idi Amin lived out his last remaining days in the kingdom. When it comes to dictators in trouble, the Saudis leave the light on.
Cons: Too bad, then, that Gaddafi is on such bad terms with King Abdullah. In 2004, Gaddafi was accused of plotting to have Abdullah assassinated. And five years later, in a very public snub during an Arab summit meeting, he told Abdullah that “you were created by Britain and are protected by the United States.” It may be awkward to now ask for the king’s protection.
Odds: 50 to 1
Ousted dictators have always had to make sacrifices when their rule ends in exile, trading in the absurd luxuries and excesses of their former life for the safety and security that come from being on foreign soil. No one stands at attention when they walk into a room; they can no longer have their enemies jailed or humiliated on the slightest whim. One can imagine them pacing their new quarters late into the night, arguing with themselves over where and when they went wrong. But hopefully, a few of those still clinging to power will look at Gaddafi’s paltry options and draw a lesson: It may be better to beat an exit early, while there is still a place — any place — to call home.
William J. Dobson , a former managing editor of Foreign Policy magazine and senior editor for Asia at Newsweek International, is writing a book about dictators.