After 42 years of tyrannical rule, Muammar Gaddafi is dead. There is no doubt about it, this is great news for the people of Libya, NATO's legitimacy, and the Obama administration.
President Barack Obama's much maligned decision to intervene and save millions of Libyans in Benghazi and the east of Libya has proven judicious and benevolent. As Vice President Joe Biden said in an earlier New Hampshire town hall, "NATO got it right." Gaddafi was a brutal dictator who had to go.
Yet, while Gaddafi's death is the latest triumph and vindication for the U.S. and NATO's costly no fly zone, it is only partially so, at least for now. Democracy in Libya is still a fragile dream, life for Libyans will not drastically improve overnight, and troubling uncertainties remain.
Of greatest concern to the West and a potential Libyan democracy is who will come next. Overthrowing Gaddafi was a remarkable and wondrous accomplishment in its own right but is only half the battle. If the Transitional National Council (TNC), a body made up of several former Gaddafi loyalists, replaces him with another tyrannical monster, what good will NATO's support have done? What if the unlikely scenario of a tribal war breaks out, plunging Libya into years of violence? Will we still look back fondly on today? It was not until a whole year after Saddam Hussein was toppled before Iraq fractured along sectarian lines and civil strife spiraled towards civil war. And what about the hundreds of surface to air missiles, RPGs, and other advanced weaponry that Gaddafi reportedly stockpiled over the last four decades? Such weapons could easily go missing and be sold to the Syrians, Iranians, or other nefarious leaders or organizations.
Such causes of anxiety are real, pressing, and only the tip of the iceberg of problems that the TNC must confront. Success won't be fully measured for several years.
Yet, while today should be a stark reminder of the need for our continued involvement and aid for Libya's fledging Transitional National Council, it is also a day for America to celebrate. Today is not necessarily a celebration of Gaddafi's death, rather, a day when we can reflect upon the bold decision to protect millions of Libyan lives, to stand up to tyranny, and to support humanity.
America proved once again that with clear leadership, we can be a force for good in the world. NATO too proved doubters wrong and stayed the course throughout a difficult mission to stay true to its word.
Personally, when I was in Libya late last spring, I saw hundreds of American flags and had dozens of people come to me and express their gratitude for saving not only their revolution, but also their lives.
I heard over and over, "We love America and you have a friend in the Libyan people."
We can thank our president for that.
Photo Credit: David Dietz