We now have verification that Moammar Gaddafi is dead, and gruesome video. Just as the fall of Hosni Mubarak and the death of Saddam Hussein ended chapters of despotism in their countries, Gaddafi’s death will allow Libya to move forward.
Those who opposed our intervention in Libya should consider: Were Libya, the region and U.S. better off with the despot continuing to wage war against his people, or will they better off without him? And for those who say the Libyans could have achieved this victory on their own, the onus is on them — as the staggering toll of mayhem and killing is uncovered — to explain why it would have been preferable to let the civil war drag on for years and/or to let Gaddafi possibly triumph.
Gaddafi’s death is also good news for efforts to get Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad to vacate. Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams wrote in early August that “the single event that would most help bring down the Assads would be the fall of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya. It still isn’t clear today if the lesson of the Arab Spring is that dictators are doomed or that dictators willing to shoot peaceful protesters can win. Once Gadhafi goes, the oxygen Libya is sucking from the Arab struggle for democracy will circulate again. The NATO effort — however poorly implemented — will have finally been a success, and threats of possible military action to protect civilians, especially refugees, will have some credibility.”
Gaddafi’s departure from the scene will not, of course, push Assad off the stage. The United States’ inability to come up with a meaningful strategy to increase pressure on him and help the dissidents in Syria won’t be cured by the end of Gaddafi. But the dictator’s death sure could help. Each time the blood-soaked hands of a despot are immobilized (by death or capture), it gives hope to other people fighting their own brutal regimes. Even better would be an American administration that fully supports pro-democracy groups and eschews playing footsie with illegitimate (how else to describe vicious tyrannies?) regimes in Iran, North Korea and elsewhere.