International banks began to move in as well, and other Western companies were quick to set up shop in a country that had, until around 2005, been a sanction-decreed investment no-fly zone.
Against that backdrop, Gadhafi endured. More recently, he has been known as much for his eccentricities — his female Ethiopian bodyguards and a Ukrainian nurse, wearing Bedouin-style robes or bringing his own Bedouin-style tent on trips abroad — as for defying the West.
While Britain's government scrambled with a public relations nightmare after the jailed Lockerbie bomber it sent back to Libya was released, Gadhafi was unfazed, apparently confident in the knowledge that after paying about $2.7 billion in compensation to the families of the bombing victims, the money was ready to flow back.
Change may have come in the form of an economic opening, but the country's political structure was unaltered, as was its attitude toward dissent.
Even if Gadhafi emerges from the current crisis still in power, the impact will reverberate in Libya. Analysts say that some oil production has already been affected as companies either pull or consider withdrawing their foreign employees.
Gadhafi "has lived with international isolation before. He's going to be tough nut to crack," Marks said. "They're going to have to take him out feet first."