Guest Column: Moammar Gadhafi meets a tyrant’s end

The Kansas City Star

The following editorial appeared online in The Kansas City Star on Thursday, Oct. 20.

Reports are conflicting on the final moments of the Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. But as with the demise of so many tyrants through history, his world — once expansive and subject to his whim — ultimately shrank until he was trapped like a criminal.

Rebel fighters closed in on his final redoubt in the coastal town of Sirte and Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril confirmed early Thursday that Gadhafi was dead. His defensive perimeter had been reduced to a neighborhood of a few buildings.

The news means another long-overdue account has been liquidated. First came the killing of Osama bin Laden and now Gadhafi, whose record over the last few decades defined the phrase “rogue regime.”

He started wars, funneled weapons to terrorists and worked to amass stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. But after the Sept. 11 attacks and the fall of Saddam Hussein, he pulled back from his activities as a state sponsor of terrorism and abandoned his efforts to join the club of nuclear powers.

Yet his long arbitrary rule poisoned his relations with ordinary Libyans. When the popular rebellions of the Arab Spring broke out, he was — like Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak — one of the most vulnerable of the long-time Arab autocrats.

The denouement of the Gadhafi saga validated the decision of President Obama to commit U.S. forces to the side of the rebels, with the initial aim of preventing a civilian massacre. But once Gadhafi’s air defenses were suppressed, the mission effectively expanded to overt rebel support. Most of the bombing missions were flown not by the U.S. but by warplanes from other NATO countries.

It’s highly doubtful that what happened in Libya can serve as a model for toppling internationally disruptive dictators in the future. Both the U.N. and the Arab League endorsed the imposition of a no-fly zone — a rare confluence of agreement from two normally fractious and indecisive bodies.

Now the page turns to the future. The world has been rid of the devil it knows, while the shape of what’s to come remains uncertain. The revolts that swept out of Tunisia, engulfed Egypt and Libya and now Syria remain inchoate and take their form from the national contexts in which they occur.

In short, another power vacuum has opened in the Middle East and a new regime — which, like Gadhafi, has access to significant oil reserves — is taking shape. It will take considerable luck and wise leadership for the rebels to keep their revolution from veering into the orgies of extremism that so often follow a dictator’s fall.

Courtesy of MCT Campus.