Colonel Gaddafi is not a man from whom other world leaders would usually be advised to take guidance.Obviously flashing an undeserved Nobel Peace Prize around doesn't carry the street cred it once did.
It was ironic, then, that last week, when pushed into a corner by the UN’s vote to take military action against his forces in Libya, he proved himself a swift decision-maker, claiming to have ordered an immediate ceasefire against his people.
The ceasefire was bogus, of course, but nonetheless it is instructive to contrast the dictator’s instantaneous response with that of President Obama’s hunched, furrow-brow in the Oval Office, allowing other nations to lead the way in forging a Western position on the crisis while he appeared to be paralysed by indecision.
The difference between the two men’s approaches could not have been more stark.
The Libyan conflict has exposed the terrible brutality of Gaddafi and his henchmen, whose grip on power is surely now finally reaching its end.
And yet it has also provided the latest example of the consistent and worrying tendency of the leader of the most powerful nation in the world to vacillate instead of making a decision – and, once he has made it, to decide to do not very much.
In a televised speech about the strike against Libya on Friday, Obama declared the US would not ‘stand idly by’ in the face of Gaddafi’s actions.
Bold words, but this was hardly Reagan, the Great Communicator. In contrast, Obama is becoming known as The Great Vacillator.
The references to the swiftness of his country’s response which peppered his speech seemed self-conscious; an awkward defence against the truth that, when it came to it, he had left the actual judgment call to the UN, only throwing America’s might behind the move when he knew the Security Council would vote in its favour.His slobbering media sycophants, meanwhile, are forced to report a defeat for Obama. If I were a Kansas hoops fan, I'd be very nervous today.
Meanwhile, David Cameron, one of the first leaders to advocate intervention, has been almost universally praised for his strong stance.
Obama's dithering may have had the unintended consequence of ensuring that the Arab world, Russia and China did not vote against the UN resolution, which they might have felt compelled to do in the face of a decisive American lead. But that is no excuse for what is becoming an habitual inability to act.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton let slip last week she is planning to retire from politics in two years, a decision rumoured to stem from her frustration over Obama’s indecisive attitude to foreign policy. One report claimed she likened the White House to ‘a bunch of amateurs’ in their handling of Gaddafi.
As Clinton knows, Obama’s latest response is part of a pattern which began virtually the moment he entered office in January 2009 with idealistic plans to change the world.
In the first week he announced he would close the Guantanamo detention centre in Cuba within 12 months.
But it is still open for business, and earlier this month Obama ordered the resumption of military trials at the camp.
He proclaimed a new approach to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, but soon became mired in the same issues surrounding Congress’s endorsement of Israel as his predecessors and has made no real progress.
Egypt marked a recent low point, with America’s embarrassing intelligence failure and Obama’s own constant flip-flopping as to the outcome there that he really wanted.
His unwillingness to involve the US in tackling the Libyan dictator until now has been rightly criticised, not least because it has cost innocent lives which could have been saved by swift, decisive action. And make no mistake, a fraction of the mightiest nation on earth’s Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean could have done the job last week.