Moammar Gadhafi, a longtime dictator and sponsor of the Lockerbie bombing and other acts of international terrorism, has finally lost his grip on power. Libyan rebels have taken the capitol city of Tripoli and are trying to capture Gadhafi, whose whereabouts are unknown. He chose to fight until the end and will now reap the consequences of that decision. Personally, I’d be surprised if he survives at the hands of those with a long, long list of grievances against him, many of a quite personal nature.
For that same reason, Bashar Assad must be shaking in his Syrian slippers. As the Guardian reports:
“The germs of Syria congratulate the rats of Libya,” read many a Tweet, referring to the terms used by each of the countries’ leaders for those fomenting unrest against the autocrats’ rule.
Others activists used the network to urge Assad to watch the news and realize he was next. The situation in Syria is less certain as the regime continues to crack down against almost exclusively unarmed protesters and without the appetite for military invention that helped push the Libyan rebels to victory.
But the impending end of Gadhafi’s rule – who came to power just a year before the Assad dynasty in Syria – has certainly bolstered morale among protesters.
It is also likely to rattle the regime in Damascus despite Assad’s assertions during a television interview last night that he is “not worried”.
While the assistance of NATO was no doubt invaluable to the Libyan rebels — a vindication of the policy adopted by President Obama and others — this remains a victory by and for the Libyan people. Tens of thousands, and eventually hundreds of thousands, took up the struggle against a tyrannical government, gambling their lives by fighting to free themselves from repression, and for the moment at least they have won that gamble.
As a result, they have earned the right to determine what happens next. It’s important to note that this is not a coup in which one strongman, usually with military backing, emerges to topple his predecessor. This is also not a revolt controlled or led from outside the country’s borders, or an invasion such as that which removed Saddam Hussein. This is something different, a genuine movement, a rising up of the people. And that is cause for optimism as we turn to the obvious question of what comes next?
Nobody really knows. Through their military assistance, the United States, NATO and the United Nations have all earned credibility with the Libyan people. Additional non-military assistance will now be needed as the Libyans attempt to rebuild government and identify and elevate new leadership. Again, that must be their battle. Those outside Libya should offer help as requested and needed, but we have neither the resources nor the wisdom to impose a solution. The Libyans have to do it themselves.
Even with such assistance, it is all too plausible that this rebellion will end as most have in the Middle East, with another dictator or power elite emerging to replace Gadhafi. There are no guarantees. However, what we do know for certain is that Gadhafi, a murderous tyrant, is gone. That opens up possibilities for Libya that did not exist a year ago. And if that part of the world is ever to stabilize and join the modern world, this is how it must happen.
– Jay Bookman