Whatever the future might hold for Libya, today is obviously a very good day for the people of that long tortured North African country. With the Qaddafi government apparently defeated, Libyans have a chance to create a sane government and to end decades of oppression. They will have that chance in no small measure because France, Britain and the United States decided to act to help those fighting against the regime. While I have been among those who criticized the Obama administration’s belated decision to intervene and its “lead from behind” posture throughout the fighting, it must today be acknowledged that despite these mistakes, the goal of ousting the dictator was achieved. The president will get, and he will deserve, some of the credit for this accomplishment.
But even as we bestow this laurel upon Obama, it is time for those who bellowed the Libya intervention was a waste of American resources to similarly acknowledge they were not on the right side here. No doubt some of them will be speaking in the coming days about the uncertain future of the country and the possibility post-Qaddafi Libya will become Islamist or an irritant to American policy in the region. It’s true we don’t know much about the rebels, but does anyone really believe they will be as destructive as the man they toppled?
Qaddafi’s long record of support for terrorism garnered him responsibility for countless atrocities of which the Lockerbie bombing is just the most famous. Libya was the Mediterranean vacation spot for terrorists and thugs throughout his 40 years of misrule. Given the fact the new government will enter office owing a debt of gratitude to the West and in dire need of the Western aid that will be forthcoming, the idea they will cause much trouble in the foreseeable future seems unrealistic.
But as much as Western diplomats must be careful not to drop the ball in our dealings with the new government, this is a moment for those who claimed Qaddafi’s fate was none of our business to pipe down. The intervention in Libya was neither reckless nor ill-considered, and the outcome is likely to benefit U.S. interests as much as it does those of the people who have been liberated.
There are vast differences between the situation in Libya and those in other brutal and dangerous Middle Eastern dictatorships such as Syria and Iran. But the principle America has a right and a duty to intervene to topple governments that are a proven danger to both their own people and the rest of the world has once again been vindicated in Libya. The victory being celebrated in Tripoli does not constitute a license for endless war against dictators, but it ought to put both Syria’s Assad and the mullahs in Iran on notice there is no guarantee they won’t meet the same fate as Qaddafi. Those who would seek to exploit the natural reluctance of Americans to enter future conflicts in order to give them such a guarantee are having a bad day. When we hear their isolationist arguments in the future, let’s remember extending the reach of liberty is something very much in America’s best interests.