How The Mighty Have Fallen

Muammar Gaddafi lived by the sword, and now he has died by the sword.

Gaddafi was an unbalanced individual who somehow ended up running an oil-rich country that produced enough money to allow him to regularly engage in international intrigue and terrorist schemes, including blowing up airplanes filled with innocent people.  He kept the people of Libya terrorized and subdued for decades.  He used the UN as a platform to broadcast his curious ideas and bloodthirsty revolutionary philosophies.  He supported terrorists and thugs, because he was one himself.

When the people of Libya finally had enough and rose up against their tyrannical dictator, Gaddafi tried to crush the dissent with violent repression.  When that didn’t work, he issued warnings and vowed to fight to the death.  According to today’s news report, however, he was found huddled in a sewer, and when he was dragged from his hiding place he pleaded for his life.  His captors ignored the pleas, executed him summarily, and paraded his dead body through the street.

The Power Of Words, And The Power Of Guns

This morning’s BBC features this headline “Libya:  US urges tough United Nations resolution.” One can only imagine the rueful reaction to that headline in Benghazi, where rebels wait while the forces of Muammar Gaddafi close in, or in Tripoli, where Gaddafi and his bloodthirsty supporters must be laughing at an international community that has done little to prevent him from crushing the rebellion.  Given what has happened over the past few weeks, this headline on a Reuters story may be more apt:  “Leaders dither as Gaddafi hails final showdown.”

The reality is that urging “tough” United Nations resolutions doesn’t mean much in the face of guns and mercenaries.  And saying that a foreign leader should leave doesn’t mean much, either.  The days when pronouncements of American presidents left people quaking in their boots are long since over.  If there is no resolve to take actions, words ring hollow — but even meaningless words and lack of action nevertheless can have negative consequences.

If, as now appears likely, Gaddafi survives the rebellion and executes or imprisons all of those who defied him, what message has been sent?  If you live under an authoritarian regime and are considering a rebellion, the message is loud and clear — you might get a pat on the head from the ever-debating members of the U.N., but don’t expect much more than that.  If you are Hugo Chavez, or Robert Mugabe, or the leadership of Iran, you realize that there isn’t much stomach for confrontation, and perhaps you decide to conduct your affairs even more recklessly.  And if you are Israel, or some other pro-Western government in a volatile region, you begin to calculate your chances of survival if American words aren’t backed up with deeds and you adjust your policies accordingly.

I’m not saying that America should intervene militarily in every foreign policy crisis or act as the world’s policeman.  I am saying, however, America should zealously guard whatever is left of its credibility and not issue pronouncements unless it is willing to back them up.

 

No Mo

The unrest in the Middle East has spread to Libya, where Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s 41-year reign may be ending — or not.  People apparently are protesting, and the government may have hired mercenaries and sent planes to mow down the demonstrators.  It’s hard to say, because there are no reporters in Libya, and a lot of the “reporting” seems to be sifting through “tweets” and “re-tweets” and dealing with unconfirmed rumor.

We can fairly conclude that something is happening, because Gaddafi’s kid gave a bizarre, finger-wagging, fight-to-the-last-bullet speech.  You wouldn’t expect that kind of diatribe unless circumstances were dire — although trying to assess the conduct of the Gaddafis by applying the standards of normal, rational behavior is probably doomed to failure.  From the speech, it sounds like Gaddafi Junior is a chip off the old block in the weirdness department.

At any given time, Muammar Gaddafi would easily rank in the top 5 in a “strangest leaders of the world” contest.  Right now, his chief rivals in that competition probably would be Kim Jong Il, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Robert Mugabe, and Hugo Chavez.  Gaddafi is a pretty strong candidate for top honors, however.  He is known for his rambling speeches, his incomprehensible political philosophy, and for wearing sunglasses, colorful outfits, and curious hats.  If he was somebody you knew in college, you would conclude that he is a complete stoner.  Instead, he has been the leader of Libya, and in control of its oil riches, for more than 40 years.

The world would be a better place if the oppressed people of Libya sent Mo packing — and his kid, too.