GOP presidential contenders said Thursday that the death of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi means a freer, better world.

That clarity and support was not in evidence when President Obama announced the limited military engagement in Libya that set off months of combat, eventually leading to the killing of Gaddafi.

The candidates are now in the odd position of praising the outcome of an effort they didn’t support.

Jon Huntsman, who in August told ABC News that he “would have chosen from the beginning not to intervene in Libya” because it was too costly and not in the nation’s security interest, sounded a positive note Thursday.

“Colonel Gaddafi’s demise is positive news for freedom-loving people everywhere, but it is just one step in a long and tumultuous turnover that is coming to Northern Africa,” he said in a statement. “I remain firm in my belief that America can best serve our interests and that transition through non-military assistance and rebuilding our own economic core here at home.”

The differing positions on foreign intervention among the candidates reflects a party that is moving away from George Bush’s more neoconservative approach to foreign policy.

On stage for Tuesday’s CNN debate, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) criticized against the Obama administration for costly military engagements, saying, “The president, he put us in Libya. He is now putting us in Africa.” She was referring to Obama’s decision to send 100 advisors to central Africa in an effort to combat the violent Lord’s Resistance Army.

On Thursday, she said: “The world is a better place without Gaddafi. It is my hope that Gaddafi’s reign of terror will be replaced with a government that respects the people of Libya and one that will be a good partner with the United States. Hopefully, today will also bring to an end our military involvement there, something I opposed from its beginning.”

Mitt Romney, campaigning in Iowa, greeted the news of the dictator’s death with, “About time,” though he criticized the administration for acting too quickly, and also questioned the objectives and strategy.

Writing in an op-ed for Romney echoed John Bolton, saying that the former U.N. Ambassador “rightly notes that Obama has set himself up for “massive strategic failure” by demanding Gaddafi’s ouster “while restricting military force to the limited objective of protecting civilians.”

In a radio interview Thursday, he said:

“This was a tyrant who has been killing his own people and of course is responsible for the lives of American citizens lost in the Lockerbie attack... And I think people across the world recognize that the world is a better place without Moammar Gaddafi.”

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said that the U.S. should “work closely with Libya to ensure the transition is successful, and that a stable, peaceful nation emerges.”